As a slight continuation of the previous post, James gives us two affirmative actions by which we can demonstrate our obedience to God. While the first—caring for orphans and widows—is no less important, our focus today is on the second. Many believers are actively engaged in caring for the fatherless and the widow, whether that is through volunteering, adopting, or simply giving. However, the latter of James’ actions plagues many churches today, and it is more often described by an alternative word…compromise.

Compromise is a nasty condition of the believer. Its invasion is subliminal; its outcomes are subversive; its effects are longstanding. While caring for those in distress has an immediate, visible impact, compromise is a rot that destroys over time, and it is often unnoticed until it is too late. Compromise isn’t necessarily introduced by what some would consider grand, life-altering decisions. Instead, it happens with the smallest of choices.

Translations render the intended goal differently. While the ESV tells us to keep ourselves unstained, and the NLT translates the phrase as “refusing to let the world corrupt you,” the NIV uses the word polluted. Though the concept is essentially the same in all three translations, I believe the impact of compromise can be somewhat lost in the NIV’s presentation. Modern technology has allowed us to filter many, if not all, pollutants from our water. Any remaining bacteria is either so minuscule that it has no effect, or it has been removed altogether. On the other hand, being stained or corrupted communicates a more permanent outcome.

But what does refusing to compromise look like practically? There are many answers to this question, and they all are personal to each believer. Some examples include what clothes we wear, food we eat, entertainment we consume, or possessions we accumulate. As for me, I enjoy watching modern crime dramas. However, this is a compromise that I must avoid. In the 80s, we labeled such “entertainment” as violent. Today, we rephrase it as “action-packed.” This altered definition allows us to circumvent conviction, especially when we read verses like Psalm 11:5. The Church (myself included) unfortunately loves violence so much that we now consider it a form of entertainment. Again, compromise.

Such compromises come at a tremendous cost. They impact our minds and our lives. It’s quite easy to cast a stone at pastors who have fallen due to moral failures. However, though we are commanded to love God with our minds (Mark 12:30) and to concentrate our minds on things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:9), we willingly subject our minds to things that are corrupt and defiled. If Jesus died to set us free from these things, why do we keep embracing them? Let us remember those who belong to Jesus no longer live by the flesh. Instead, they have crucified its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).