Up in a narrow hollow in East Tennessee there is a little white, country church called “Compromise.” It is on Route 70 between Rogersville and Kyle’s Ford. It’s been there quite a long time. It looks pretty serene, with a picnic shelter in the back, and a simple steeple on top. It is a landmark for locals who pass by it probably without much notice these days.
The church’s name always peaks my interest. Compromise is not something many of us are good at doing. In fact, we live in a time when “stonewalling” and other polarizing methods are the order of the day. Diplomacy isn’t practiced in government, business or church. We divide into camps and fortify our positions, determined with steel that we will not change our positions regardless. Perhaps, like Martin Luther, we engrave in the tables of our lives that German Reformer’s motto: “Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other.” Even our country music backs us up, as the crooners wail: “You’ve got to stand for something, or fall for anything.”
The folks at Compromise offer us another solution. Perhaps we can give a little. Perhaps we can show the fruits of the spirit at work in our lives, you know: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, self-control. Against these things, wrote the Apostle Paul, “there is no law.” Well, Paul didn’t always compromise, but occasionally he arose to a nobler, more honorable way.
My denominational organization (the United Methodist Church) has been beset by lack of compromise. Not only on the global level with the recent stonewalled General Conference, during which time people on all sides of nearly every issue found themselves unable to move the church in any direction, but even on the local level, groups that get all turfy in the church and bristle and hiss at one another, holding on to power with a white knuckle grip. What is it about church people that makes us so determined to hold on to things that really don’t matter in the larger scheme of things? We get so worked up, when all Jesus really wanted out of us was to learn how to love people. Didn’t he say his yoke was “easy?” His burden “light?” Why is it so hard, church?
Oh, there’s a part of me that is arguing with the other part while I write this. Compromise can be a dirty word. I feel it only honest of me to tell you I have convictions about that. But Compromise is witness to a greater spirit. Yeah, I’m all about scriptural integrity, I was called to preach in a small church in East Tennessee, after all. I didn’t know there was anything but King James until I was a teenager. But this world in which we live is falling apart as people group themselves into these hard-line, tough-as-nails polarized groups. I have a feeling Jesus is weeping again.