Thursday, October 17, 2013


I am grateful to those Republicans in the House and Senate who, in the face of great pressure to vote against reopening the government, agreed to compromise.  You know it had to be a sacrifice for them. It looks like they thought it was the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.

That, to me, is the sign of a true statesman, someone who can lose graciously for the greater good. In this case, it was to make a choice for what they believed was the lesser of two evils.  I have no doubt but that Senator Dan Coats of Indiana and my own Congresswoman Susan Brooks believe with all their heart that the Affordable Care Act is a bad thing. But they apparently thought defaulting on our debt obligations and keeping government employees out of work was a worse evil at this moment.

There are spiritual lessons here. Jesus was not an idealist. That was the Pharisees we love to hate. Jesus believed in getting an ox out of a ditch even if it was the Sabbath (Luke 14:5).  Paul urged the Corinthians that it was better to be cheated and lose, even when you were in the right, for the greater good (1 Cor. 6:7). Jesus' death was the greatest example of a person who was right but surrendered to being wronged for the greater good.

My point is that there is a time to compromise and there is a time to lose. There is even a time to lose a battle so you can fight another day. I remember talking to some missionaries in Sierra Leone who struggled with whether to leave the country during civil war. With some disgrace, they decided it was better to live and be able to come back than to die and never be able to minister there again. No doubt they had to wrestle with the shame of this decision, maybe even the anger of those left behind, but they believed it was the best course of action.

A pastor who operates with a "my way or the highway" attitude is a pastor destined for failure. And we know plenty of laypeople in the church with that attitude--we don't think highly of them. In the university, there is a time when you fight for your outcome. Then there is a time when you realize you've lost the argument and you yield to the majority. Those who don't are not people you ultimately want around in the long term.

The heart of the gospel is a story of winning by losing.  It's about the last being first.  Any construction of Jesus that sees him as a "win at all costs" down here kind of Messiah needs to go back to the Bible. That's the mistake Peter made when he corrected Jesus about going to Jerusalem to die. "No, Jesus," Peter thought.  "Messiahs don't die.  They always win."

So let me express my gratitude to Boehner and Cantor for voting yes.  Surely it had to be the right thing to do for them to vote against all the political pressure going the other way.  My respect for them has gone up greatly.

Compromise is not always a dirty word. There's a another term for it--mutual submission.


Susan Moore said...

Thank you for the Biblical connection, what a beautiful day I’m enjoying.
It seems that bowing out of any sort of ‘competition’ for the purpose of effecting the greatest good for the greatest number of people is most difficult because it pits one’s human will against one’s Spirit of hope in an intense competition between one’s mortal human nature and one’s indwelled Spirit. The human will desires to puff itself up, but the Spirit of eternal hope desires to prosper the community of people effected by the outcome of the competition, whether that community of others consists of millions or just one.
Walked a mile this morning under the stars and street lights. The only sounds out were my footsteps and breathing. Communed with about 70 other people for morning prayers, Mass and singing.
What a blessing; to all celebrate the risen King.

vanilla said...

In compromise, no one gets what he wants; yet everyone gets something.

Robert Brenchley said...

I used to know a missionary who was taken captive by the RUC in Sierra Leone, and was treated well. But the situation was out of control, and I wouldn't blame anyone for leaving! There was a right fuss in Amnetsy international when they tried to force workers to go there. It's my wife's country, and obviously we knew exactly what was going on.