This week, we saw the United States government come to a grinding but deliberate halt. The word “shutdown” was spoken, spouted, typed and tweeted millions of times as the American people tried to make some sense of it all. What did it mean? What, if any, parts of our government were still operational? And most importantly, who was to blame?
A major cause of the situation is that neither side is willing to part from how they think things should be. Both sides are stringent in their beliefs that they know what is best for the American people. And both sides are viciously adamant in their stance, so much so that they’re willing to furlough thousands of government employees without pay.
Instead of offering good, honest-to-God compromises, both sides seem to be perfectly willing to simply toss blame at the other side and hope the stalemate comes to a close sooner rather than later. In fact, as of last night, four different resolutions had been offered between the opposing sides, only to see them struck down with extreme prejudice and malice.
And while this impartial writer is neither qualified or willing to discuss and debate the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, there is a part of this whole ridiculous debacle—and that’s what it is—that we younger Christians can take to heart and mind and soul.
When and at what time, if any, is it okay to compromise your stance and when is it imperative to fervently stand your ground? And more importantly, how can we tell the difference?
Most of us have been taught from diapers that we are meant to hold tight to our Godly beliefs. We’re taught the refusal to doubt what we believe to be truth, now and forever. We stand firm on these things and we fight for them. What we believe, who we love, where we belong; these are the kinds of things that we will bruise and bully into reality. These are the kinds of things that ache so desperately in our hearts that our mind is made up and our will is steeled against any would be intruder or disturbance.
But throughout life—at work, at church, in our relationships—our days are filled with compromises and concessions. We work with or for someone we don’t like or respect. We attend service at our chosen sanctuary of worship even though other members may disagree with us politically or theologically. We move cities and jobs to follow our partners as they chase their dreams.
It’s not easy. Frequently, we’re afraid of looking weak when we give into the demands of others. We like the idea of being seen as strong and steadfast. We have images in our head of people like Joan of Arc and Dr. Martin Luther King, who stood by their principles to the bitter end. With those pictures, the word “compromise” does take on a dirty taste.
But the reality is, few of our compromises involve Civil Rights or the freedom of our nation. We do well to know which items we will not compromise on—those beliefs of ours that we will cling to no matter what. But it takes great wisdom and maturity to understand what items we will compromise on as well.
Because compromise isn’t necessarily about giving in or forfeiting the things we want. It’s about giving a bit here and there in the present so that our life is easier or more fruitful in the future. We learn to deal with coworker or boss we can’t stand because our job requires it of us and we are good stewards with what God has given us. We go to Church with those we disagree and bicker with because that’s where God has placed us and His will and wisdom are above our own. And we give up our lives and jobs and move cities because our partner landed their dream job and we want to support them and invest in our relationship with them.
It’s the wisdom we’re given through prayer and faith that allows us the temperance to acknowledge when is the time to fight and when is the time to compromise. And while most of us may have a good idea of what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth compromising on, the choice isn’t always an easy one to make. Sometimes when we know we should fight, we concede. And other times, when we know we should humbly forfeit and compromise on what we want, we instead fight tooth and nail, causing more harm than is necessary.
And that’s where the United States’ government finds itself today. Through hundreds of years of bickering and fighting, these two parties have once again reached a bridge they refuse to cross together. Instead, they hunker down across the proverbial battlefield and loft soft shots of insults and blame at each other.
It’s the saddest of states, really. Neither side is doing all they can to bring this standoff to the end because they aren’t being affected. No, it’s the people that put them in their elected seat that suffer. Congress and both political parties have to realize that this is not a time for bullheaded force or tyrannical might. Rather, this is a time of compromise and focused determination for the sake of the citizens who have allowed them in office.
Maybe this shutdown of the American government will be done by the end of the weekend and maybe it’ll last for the foreseeable future. How are we to know? What are we to do? Other than taking a closer look at who we vote for come next election season, we can examine this shameless exercise in greed and stubbornness and apply it to our own lives so we keep from making the same mistakes.
We can resolve to be better than the puffed up politicians of America. We can decide to approach our lives through prayer and faith so that when we are made to decide between fighting and compromising, we’ll make the wise, Godly choice that fits our situation.
Cory Copeland is a writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Bri. You can follow him on Twitter @Cory_Copeland and read more of his writing at CoryCopeland.net.