“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” Exodus 23:2; Deuteronomy 14:2
It is human to stand with the crowd; it is divine to stand alone. It is manlike to follow the people, to drift with the tide; it is godlike to follow a principle, to stem the tide. It is natural to compromise conscience and follow the social and religious fashion for the sake of gain or pleasure; it is divine to sacrifice both on the altar of truth and duty. When Christians begin to compromise elements of truth, sacrificing biblical moral principles for the sake of achieving peace, it can be eternally fatal. In the words of Martin Luther; “Peace if possible, truth at all cost.” All compromise is not bad. But if it concerns sin, “stand alone and make no compromise.”
For the dedicated Christian, it is impossible to have both the acceptance of the world and the approval of our heavenly Father. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13). And James put it this way: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. Thus, according to God’s Word, it is impossible for a Christian to enjoy the acceptance of the world and all its sinful pleasures while simultaneously enjoying the peace and assurance that comes from a saving relationship with Jesus. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. The sad truth is that millions of professing Christians around the world are searching for a way to strike a comfortable compromise between their convictions and the wicked world in which we live.
For Daniel, among the viands placed before the king were wine, flesh, and other meats which were declared unclean by the Law of Moses, and which the Hebrews had been expressly forbidden to eat. Daniel was brought to a severe test. Should he adhere to the teachings of his fathers concerning meat and drinks, and offend the king, and probably lose not only his position but his life? Or should he disregard the commandment of the Lord, and retain the favor of the king, thus securing great intellectual advantages and the most flattering worldly prospects? Daniel did not long hesitate. He decided to stand firm in his integrity, let the result be what it might. He “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.” Daniel 1:8
“Written for our admonition”
“No man stood with me, but all men forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16), wrote the battle-scarred apostle Paul in describing his first appearance before Nero to answer for his life for believing and teaching contrary to the Roman world. Was he alone? Noah built and voyaged alone. His neighbours laughed at his strangeness, foolishness, and then they perished. Abraham wandered and worshiped alone. “In order that God might qualify him for his great work as the keeper of the sacred oracles, Abraham must be separated from the associations of his early life. The influence of kindred and friends would interfere with the training which the Lord purposed to give His servant. . . . His character must be peculiar, differing from all the world. He could not even explain his course of action so as to be understood by his friends. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and his motives and actions were not comprehended by his idolatrous kindred.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 126. Daniel dined and prayed alone. Elijah sacrificed and witnessed alone. Jeremiah prophesied and wept alone. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews began to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. In Ezra 4:1–2, the Bible records, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple. . . . and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto Him.” But the Jews knew these neighbouring nations that were coming combined the worship of the true God with their Assyrian pagan gods. How did Israel respond? They “said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD.” Ezra 4:3. They made the right choice, refusing to let unconverted pagans influence them in how they built the Lord’s holy temple. Jesus lived and died alone. And of the lonely way His disciples should walk He said, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14. Of their treatment by the many who walk in the broad way He said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, . . . therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:19
The church in the wilderness praised Abraham, and persecuted Moses. The church of the Kings praised Moses, and persecuted the prophets. The church of Caiaphas praised the prophets, and persecuted Jesus. The church of the popes praised the Saviour, and persecuted the saints. And multitudes now, in both the church and the world, applaud the courage and fortitude of the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, but condemn as stubbornness or foolishness like faithfulness to truth today. Wanted, today, men and women, young and old, who will obey their convictions of truth and duty at the cost of fortune and friends and life itself.
To the reproaches of his enemies, who taunted him with the weakness of his cause, Luther answered: “‘Who knows if God has not chosen and called me to perform this needed work, and if these babblers ought not to fear that by despising me, they despise God Himself? They say I am alone; no, for Jehovah is with me. In their sense, Moses was alone at the departure from Egypt; Elijah was alone in the reign of King Ahab; Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem; Ezekiel was alone in Babylon. Hear this, O Rome: God never selected as a prophet either the high priest or any great personage; but rather, He chose low and despised men, once even the shepherd Amos. In every age the saints have been compelled to rebuke kings, princes, recreant priests, and wise men at the peril of their lives.’ ‘I do not say that I also am a prophet; but I do say that they ought to fear precisely because I am alone, while on the side of the oppressor are numbers, caste, wealth, and mocking letters. Yes, I am alone; but I stand serene, because side by side with me is the Word of God; and with all their boasted numbers, this, the greatest of powers, is not with them.’” –The Great Controversy 1888, p. 142
Compromising the conscience—following the multitude
Wanting to appease the majority, Pilate explains that he will have Christ beaten and then released. Yet if Jesus is innocent, why have Him beaten? The answer is, once you begin to walk down the road of compromise, no matter where you stop, the devil will pick you up and complete the walk for you. You have already signaled your weakness to him by displaying a willingness to negotiate with wrong if the price is right. Once you begin sacrificing your convictions, it is very easy to slide down into ruin. Sensing Pilate’s weakness, Satan used the crowd to press the vacillating ruler all the way for crucifixion. Pilate started down the road of negotiating with evil, and that is where the devil wanted him. That is why when Pilate attempted to outsmart the devil, it backfired. He offered them Barabbas as a compromise instead of Jesus. Pilate paraded the cold-blooded killer in front of the throngs as an example of real evil to contrast with the example of a sinless Christ. He must have thought to himself, “They just want to see a crucifixion so I will offer them a compromise, and they will obviously pick Jesus.” He never dreamed they would ask him to release Barabbas, but that is exactly what they did.
Finally, Pilate’s little concession of compromise got to the place where it was completely out of his hands. In vain, “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” Matthew 27:24. But was he really clean? He had declared the Saviour just, but conformed his sentence to the pressure of the crowd.
Likewise, when we begin to compromise with truth, and our actions finally get out of hand and the consequences come full and hard, we will not be able to claim innocence either. So once you start thinking of going down the road of compromise, remember Pilate. Remember that Jesus died because someone thought they could compromise truth.
Do not compromise with sin; Close Your Mind to Conformity
When you are being tempted by someone or something to compromise your convictions, steer as far away as you can from the edge of the evil. Do not let sin work on you, whittling down your resolve. Eve wandered too close to the forbidden tree and then waited to hear Satan’s rationalizations. As soon as she saw the tree and heard the serpent question God’s truth, she should have
run for cover. The Word of God commands us to flee from temptation (1 Timothy 6:11).
When it comes to compromising the Word of God, do not have an open mind. You are going to be called a conservative for not accepting the standards of the world. But do not be intimidated when you are accused of being “close-minded.” It is good to be closed-minded regarding the commandments of God. I have a wife with whom I have covenanted—I am not open-minded about anything that would destroy that promise. The devil is setting up the church in the last days by preaching a message of unity through compromise. Little by little, he is softening our resolve, encouraging us to make little concessions and compromises so that when that big test comes, he has us where he wants us.
Read Daniel 3 and bear with my loose paraphrase. Nebuchadnezzar said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “So you didn’t bow down? I’ll tell you what: I don’t want to lose you; you’re good workers. I’ll give you another chance and have the band play the music one more time. Perhaps you just want a little different song? But when you hear the sound, you need to bow down.” But the three young Hebrews resolutely told the king he need not waste his time on them. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:16–18). They did not negotiate, even when the devil tried to engage them. The devil would rather have you die after you have disobeyed than die a martyr and be a victorious example. But if you die in this world, upholding the Word, you will live in the next. So today, we need to be faithful in that which is least. We may not think the little tests we face now are a matter of life and death, but if we cannot learn arithmetic with pennies, we will never understand it with dollars. If we compromise and conform now in the little things, with no death threat hanging over our heads, what are we likely to do when we are threatened with imprisonment or death?
Be “a special people”
The Spirit of Prophecy is clear: “Make no compromise with those who have apostatized.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, p. 363. “We are not to cringe and beg pardon of the world for telling them the truth: we should scorn concealment. Unfurl your colors to meet the cause of men and angels.” –Evangelism, p. 179. “Let it be understood that Seventh-day Adventists can make no compromise. In our opinions and faith there must not be the least appearance of wavering. The world has a right to expect something of us.” –The Review and Herald, January 31, 1893. “The Lord would have his people a separate and peculiar people. ‘For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God,’ He says, ‘the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen.’” –The Youth’s Instructor, August 25, 1898 (see also Pastoral Ministry p. 58)
Preparing children to stand alone firmly
“Those who have seen the truth and felt its importance, and have had an experience in the things of God, are to teach sound doctrine to their children. They should make them acquainted with the great pillars of our faith, the reasons why we are Seventh-day Adventists—why we are called, as were the children of Israel, to be a peculiar people, a holy nation, separate and distinct from all other people on the face of the earth. These things should be explained to the children in simple language, easy to be understood; and as they grow in years, the lessons imparted should be suited to their increasing capacity, until the foundations of truth have been laid broad and deep.” –Child Guidance, p. 495
The students of one military academy in America would recite the Cadet’s Prayer in the chapel: “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.” That kind of noble resolve is something you scarcely hear about anymore. It is believed by many to be virtuous to compromise truth in the name of unity, but not according to the Bible.
Refusing to buckle to the pressure of compromise requires divine courage. The Lord told Joshua, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:7
We do not need to worry that God will not forgive us if we sincerely repent of our compromise and turn the other way. But when we sin, when we stumble into error, we train ourselves to go down that road again. God can give you a new heart, but do not think you can continue to compromise and not reap the consequences. Continued compromise can numb your conscience, until it is the fruit of conformity with the world.
In every age, God has called His servants to lift up their voices against the prevailing errors and sins of the multitude. Noah was called to stand alone to warn the antediluvian world. Moses and Aaron were alone against kings and princes, magicians and wise men, and the multitudes of Egypt. Elijah was alone when he testified against an apostate king and a backsliding people. Daniel and his fellows stood alone against the decrees of mighty monarchs. The majority are usually to be found on the side of error and falsehood. The fact that doctors of divinity have the world on their side does not prove them to be on the side of truth and of God. The wide gate and the broad road attract the multitudes, while the strait gate and the narrow way are sought only by the few. “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14. Once we know that something is right according to God’s Word, our responsibility is to take our stand. God will do great things for those who stand up for Him. He is looking for representatives who will trust Him. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
When you stand firm for truth, your life will be a saving witness to your family, your friends, your neighbours, and even the heavenly agencies. God will look down from heaven and say, “Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, . . . one that feareth God and escheweth evil?” Job 1:8. However, do not miss this important reality. If you stand up for what is right and do not get involved in apostate alliances, you will be persecuted for it. First, the devil’s approach will be, “Let’s just work together. Let’s all love each other. Compromise a little on your convictions; we’ll compromise a little on ours, and then we’ll be united. After all, unity is so important!” If you don’t fall for that trap and take a stand for truth, they will become your worst enemy, which really tells you where their hearts were in the first place.
This is a vitally important lesson as we head into the last days, because eventually all the world’s religions will make concessions to form a united religious front that will ultimately promote the worship of the beast power. If we are developing a pattern now of sacrificing our convictions for the illusion of peace, we are paving the way in preparation to worship the beast. “Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 188
With God all things are possible, including living a life without worldly conformity and compromise. Resolve now by His grace to stand on the Rock and resist the waves of compromise that are sweeping God’s children from the shores of salvation. And always remember that when you take your stand, you do not stand alone. Jesus stands with you. So, you are “alone but not alone.” Amen.
Victor Shumbusho, Congo