From the Pastor's Study
From the Pastor’s Study
Accommodation and Compromise
May 24, 2023
It is probably true that most relationships involve a degree of compromise. Concessions must be made by all those in the relationship or else it will fall apart. Individuals in a group of friends must concede their choice of campground so that the entire group can remain together. A husband may have to give up room in the garage so that his wife can park her car inside for the winter. Without compromise, generally, relationships don’t work well.
Generally, we see compromise in relationships between equals. Husband and wife, friend groups, siblings – individuals who are equal in these relationships will need to concede to the wishes of others from time to time. In relationships between two parties who are not equal, however, we don’t think in terms of compromise. Rather, the relationship would be defined more in terms of accommodation and obedience. The more powerful person in the relationship will accommodate for the needs of others, and the weaker in the relationship will obey. The most obvious example of this would be our relationship with God.
God accommodates himself to us for the sake of the relationship. Thus, although God is not physical, he describes himself in terms which we would understand. For this reason, we see God revealing himself as having a “strong arm” or a “heart of compassion” or “a face that he turns toward us.” God accommodates himself to us so that we can understand him. But in his accommodation he does not compromise his holy nature. Thus, while God may reveal himself in terms which we might understand, we do not think of God as being like us physically. God is spirit, and he is not physical, nor is he bound to time or space. God is other; he is holy. What is truly amazing is that the triune God’s most significant way of accommodating us was in the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, when he became a human being. Accommodation happens when the more powerful person in the relationship recognizes the needs of the weaker party and acts in such a way to meet those needs. God the Son became Jesus so that he could meet the one great need we cannot fulfill ourselves, namely to provide us with salvation. Yet, even in this, God did not compromise himself, for Jesus remained fully God even though he was also fully human. God accommodated himself for the sake of the relationship, but he did not compromise himself.
Conversely, we as human beings, the weaker party in the relationship, respond with obedience, not compromise. While obedience involves conceding to the other, it is not compromising when we concede to the more powerful person. When we are asked to change our habits or lifestyles because of the wishes of one who has authority over our lives, we are not being asked to compromise; we are being asked to obey. We recognize that because God is God, we obey him because he has the right to demand obedience of us. Again, when we concede to God, we are not compromising; we are obeying as we ought.
In all of this, what is the role of the church? This is a question that is asked in every age, including our own. While the church is made up of the people who belong to the Lord, it is also, as the body of Christ, led by those who have been called by God to speak his Word and hold us all accountable. The church, thus, though made up of people, also represents God, and the leadership of the church has been given the task of calling the people to obedience to God the Father. The church, of course, must be accommodating. Thus, we have translations of the Bible, and new translations are provided as language changes. Music style changes, depending on the members of the church and their preferences. (Of course, the words of the songs should always be fully biblical and theologically correct and well rounded.) What accommodations the church should make for its members is something with which the council of the church must wrestle, and sometimes the decisions are not easy.
But we must never forget that while the church has authority over its members, it is also accountable to God. The church, in being accommodating to its members, must also be obedient to God. At no point may the church be in violation of the will of God, and if it is, it must be called to account. If a church begins to provide accommodations to its members that are contrary to God’s Word, then it is in danger of seeing itself as being equal to God, and it must be said that its accommodation is actually compromising. Compromise is usually necessary between equal partners in a relationship, but it may not happen in an unequal relationship such as exists between God and the church. The church must be obedient to God, and the members of the church to the church, for it has been delegated the task of guiding the people in the name of Jesus. Just as Jesus, although he accommodated himself to humanity without compromise, so the church can accommodate itself to its members, but it must do so without compromise.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to be obedient to our God and, by extension, to the church, as long as the church is seeking to be obedient to God. God has accommodated himself to us, to be sure, and for that we can be thankful. But he has not compromised himself. As a church we accommodate ourselves to others so that they can know God’s salvation. Anything beyond the concessions of accommodation which must be within the bounds of God’s will becomes compromise, and that would be sin.