by Robert Flores
I see a lot of Christians in different areas compromising the gospel to reach people. I hear of Christians wanting to reach the world by being “all things to all people”, being “salt and light” and wanting to “plant seeds”. This essay will discuss four general areas of compromise that the Church has fallen into. And then we will look at the 3 main Bible verses that give “justification” for such compromises. Let’s begin.
One area that I see Christians compromising in is in Bible translations. There are numerous Bible translations published each year. These Bible translations are marketed to specific groups: teenagers, elderly people, men, women, children, etc. Within these Bibles are Q&As, quizzes, tips on dating, relationships and career that are most certainly not God-breathed. At what point does putting supplemental material next to Scripture constitute a violation of Revelation 22:18-19, that no one should add or delete to God’s Word? Does God’s Word really need to be modified to speak to certain segments of society? Can He not speak to everyone with the same Bible? How hypocritical to say that God’s Word can change someone’s life and then go and repackage that Bible hundreds of different ways? As a side note, there is another area of compromise within Bible translations that involves the use of a falsified 19th century Greek text referred to as the Nestle-Aland-United Bible Society-Westcott-Hort-Aleph-B-Alexandrinus Greek text. Almost all the modern translations today are based on this inferior-and-deliberately-changed text, as opposed to the Textus Receptus-Byzantine-Majority-Received text that was the basis for all English translations before the 17th century. (But, alas, this involves textual criticism and is beyond the scope of this essay.) Whatever happened to sola scriptura? Nowadays it’s sola scriptura plus tips on life, footnotes, Q&A’s, etc. Scripture is being made equivalent to the opinions of fallible men. How is that any different than the Roman Catholic Church equalizing Scripture to the same level as Tradition? These publishers are deliberately supplementing God’s words, all in the name of “evangelism” and “being all things to all people.” How convenient for a person to read a difficult passage in Scripture, and, rather than being convicted of his sin, can run down to the corner bookstore and pick up any number of Bible translations that water down that particular passage and makes it less offensive. Even feminists and homosexuals can read the Bible now and not get offended by gender-centric language. They can simply pick up a copy of Zondervan’s TNIV with gender-neutral language! Are these Christian publishers really trying to “reach people” or are they just simply fattening their wallets at the expense of God’s Word?
Bible translations, however, are not the only way in which Christians are compromising to “get the gospel out”. The most obvious example of “being all things to all people” is found in the Christian music industry. Christian musicians are determined to use every single musical style and every single type of lyric to “reach people.” It is founded on the belief that by changing the words and not the message that you can reach people. That is so erroneous. The message and the words are one in the same. Jesus used certain words that cannot be translated into hip-hop (i.e. “hell”, “heaven”, “judgment”, “sin”, etc.)! Watering down the message never reaches people. There is a way to reach people without changing the language of the Truth. Remember when Paul visited Mars Hill? He didn’t start “rapping” or participating in nude Olympic games to “reach” the Greeks. He used their own poets against them and then moved the conversation to the truth. His speech didn’t change. He didn’t make up new words. He used their philosophies as a starting point and then pointed them to the Truth. That is what it means to be “all things to all people”. It does NOT mean twisting Scripture to say that Jesus was a hippy, a revolutionary or an activist. In the near future, I fear that Christian musicians will start having “Parental Advisory” labels on their CDs. This will be justified by the musicians and the music labels as “we don’t really mean what we’re saying, and we’re just trying to reach the youth.” Again, how hypocritical to start putting in swear words, say that we don’t really mean them, and then start talking about Jesus! Is the world really turning to Christ because of the watered-down message in today’s Christian music? I doubt it.
The Christian movie industry is another arena that this ideology will be played out in the near future. The advent of this movement was The Passion of the Christ. But, inevitably, Christians, and even non-Christians will see to it that Christian movies don’t have to be all “clean and nice.” Thus they will start putting in more violence, sex and swear words to make the movie “more real” to the audience. And thus, “if it is more real the audience may get the message of Jesus somewhere in the film.” How hypocritical of Christians to use the bait of sin (Rated R content) and to be fishers of men. You don’t reach people by glorifying their sin. You reach people by condemning it. Jesus’ parables almost always dealt with sinful men; He never glorified the sins of his protagonists. But, again, this mentality (I’ve heard it myself among Christians) will be justified as “being all things to all people” and “trying to reach people for the gospel”. Is the gospel that Christians are using the gospel of Jesus Christ, or, is it another “gospel”?
One last area of compromise is in how Jesus is depicted. Everyone wants to be kin to Jesus. And it’s just natural that those desires would lead into making Jesus in their own image. We have a black Jesus, an Asian Jesus, we have a “street Jesus” (like in the play Godspell), and we have a modern Jesus (like in the movie Joshua). We have all different kinds of Jesuses that have been created to “reach people”, but really, they are created to suit the creators’ needs. People want to feel that Jesus is “one of the homies” or “the guy next door”, but that is not historically accurate. Jesus was of Jewish descent. How many black or Asian Jews have you seen? He lived in first century Israel; not next door. Different segments of our society want their own Jesus. They want their own “custom Jesus” to suit their needs. But that is breaking the second commandment: “you shall not make any images of God in your own likeness”. What these compromising Christians don’t understand is that the historically-accurate Jewish Jesus can fill ALL our needs. He is truly “one size fits all”. That is where faith comes in. But it is man’s wisdom that wants to change Jesus’ race and outward appearance. How are people supposed to turn to Christ when they don’t even know which one to pick? Until the real Jesus starts being preached (rather than 31 flavors) America will not turn to Christ!
All these examples show the kinds of compromise that the Church has accepted as “normal”. But compromise only helps book publishers, movies studios and other entrepreneurs’ pocket books. It never helps the gospel. Ah, but someone will say that it is not compromise. They will say that changing the gospel to suit the needs of the audience is not only warranted, but is commissioned by the Bible in numerous places. I would like to look at the three main verses that “justify” this compromising behavior. The first one is found in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23:
“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
In this passage, Paul is talking about his own Christian life and how he makes himself a servant unto all. Unto the Jews, he made himself a Jew. Unto those under the Law, he made himself as one under the Law. Unto those without the Law, he made himself as one without the Law. Unto the weak, he became as one weak. The way that he lived and the way that he preached is what changed. But the essence of his Christian life nor the content of what he preached is what changed. If I may use an illustration, consider it like this: Paul had a pitcher of water. He could change different pitchers at any given time; but the water itself never changed. That is the problem I see. When Bible translations, movies, music and the very representation of Jesus is changed, that is not “changing the pitcher”! That is changing what is inside the pitcherthe gospel.
And Paul is indeed talking about the gospel as to what is inside that pitcher. In verse 23 he says “And this I do for the gospel's sake”. Paul never changed what was being preached, just how he preached it. That is totally different than the Christian pop-culture that is being offered today. It's interesting to me that Christian artists who don't want to make Christian art with Christ in them use this verse as their justification. They have mistaken “change the pitcher” to mean “change the water in the pitcher”. Paul never said that we should change the words of the gospel. He never said that Christians should change the historically-accurate Jewish Jesus to “another Jesus”. Paul is saying that we should reach people and get to know them where they are. It doesn’t mean diluting the gospel to suit their needs and it doesn’t mean twisting the Christian message to make people accept it. People should be offended at the Truth you have to say to them. Jesus offended people all the time with the Truth that he spoke. It is that offensiveness that leads to repentance. When publishers, musicians, directors and artists start bottling their message as to not offend people, yes, the audience may accept the message, but it isn’t the message of Christ.
The next Bible verse that is used as “justification” for this misrepresentation of the gospel is found in Matthew 5:13-16: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I hear a lot about Christians wanting to be “salt and light”. However, when Jesus mentions us as being “the salt of the earth”, He wasn’t talking about a little pinch. Listen to what He says: “if the salt has lost its flavor… it is good for nothing.” Salt has to have some flavor, and preferably a lot! The closer a piece of salt gets to losing all of its flavor, the closer it gets to being “thrown out”. This is what Christians misunderstand: the subtler you are, the closer you are to having no flavor, and the closer you are to being thrown out. Salt is the opposite of leaven; it preserves something and stops the decay. How much salt does it take to preserve a dead piece of meat? A little bit? No, it takes quite a bit! How much more salt would it take to preserve this dead world?
Jesus also told us to be the light of the world. How much light is He talking about here? Within the context, He is comparing light with the aforementioned salt. Listen to what He says: men don’t put a candle under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it gives light unto all that are in the house. That implies letting your light shine unto the whole world. How much light does would it take to brighten a really dark house? A little bit? Well, the world's darkness is billions of times darker than that dark house. So, how much light would it take to brighten this world? He says: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Your light has to be apparent enough for men to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. That doesn’t sound like a small amount of light to me.
Finally, Jesus mentions Christians as being a city on a hill. A city on a hill is visible from all around. It cannot be hidden. Jesus doesn’t want us to miss the import of that. Our lives and our works for God should not/cannot be hidden from men. And any compromising Christian who believes otherwise has not read their Bible. These are hard words from Jesus, but it is to our benefit that we hear what He has to say and not ignore it or change the meaning of His words.
One final Bible verse that is used for “justification” of compromising or changing the gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 3:6-11: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
When Christians use the phrase “seed planting”, they have changed that phrase from what Paul is talking about here. When the phrase is used to today, it usually means dropping subtle hints of your Christianity (either in your life or in your artwork). But is that the kind of seed that Paul is talking about here? Listen to the kind of seed that Paul planted: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The seed that he used was Jesus Christ! He doesn’t mention any other kind of seed or foundation other than Jesus Christ. Any other seed (i.e. subtle Christianity, allegorical stories, good secular music that mentions “God” every once in while, etc.) would seem to be less effective, if at all. And yet most of what is being advocated in Christian circles is this kind of “seed planting”. If the kind of seed being planted is not the right kind of seed (i.e. Jesus) then it doesn’t matter who would come and “water” it laterit’s the wrong seed to begin with! Paul uses the term “foundation” interchangeably with “planting”. He says: “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon”. Planting a seed is the equivalent to constructing a building. And what foundation does this “building” need? He says it right here in verse 11: Jesus Christ.
Jesus told a parable of a sower of seed in Matthew 13. The sower in this parable could represent either God or a Christian. Jesus defines the seed that the sower uses as the “word of the kingdom” (v.18). That seedthe “word of the kingdom”was planted in a lot of places, but the seed itself never changed. Compromising Christians want to change the seed that they are to be planting. But God didn’t give us different seeds to choose from; He only gave use one seed to plant with: Jesus Christ (or, the “word of the kingdom”).
So, as one can see, the ideology of Christian compromisers has affected the Church’s way of doing things on a deep level. I hear these ideas among Christians everywhere. I admit, I have also compromised many times because I bought into these misconstrued interpretations of Scripture. Compromise always has to do with human wisdom, but how we Christians are to reach the world for Christ cannot be done with human wisdom. We can only do it by the Spirit of God that can change a person’s life. We need to start praying and studying His Word and then He’ll lead us how to reach people. Christians should be following His Word; not compromising it.
Christian compromisers assume that if they water down Jesus’ message (or change it all together) that the audience will turn to Christ. But they totally disregard the other argument that actually being overt with Christ’s message would be the very impetus for someone to buy a book, buy a CD, go to a movie or accept Christ. Christians need to be honest with the world; not try and pull a fast one. I have two friends that picked up a Christian tract, and, because of its overt gospel message, turned to Christ. Would that have happened if the tract had been a different gospel, or no gospel at all? As a self-publisher/artist, I always think that I have one shot to preach the gospel to the audience. Why would I waste that one shot with something that is never commissioned by Scripture? If I’m going to preach something to the audience, I’m going to preach Jesus and the “word of the kingdom”. I just wish that other musicians, artists, publishers and evangelists felt the same way.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
September 15, 2007