I heard a Russian Proverb this weekend that chronicles the exploits of a hunter off in Siberia or some such place. Rifle in hand and intent on coming home with a fur coat, the hunter stalked about the woods until that ominous moment that he heard a stick crack. He wheeled in the snow and there in front of him stood an enormous bear. And a furry one, too. “This will make a perfect coat, and will get me through yet another winter,” he thought as he raised his gun and took aim.
The bear, knowing what was coming, raised its paws in surrender and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa . . . can we talk this through?”
Surprised, the hunter lowered his gun and his eyebrows. “What did you say?” he asked.
The bear responded, “I just thought we could talk this through a bit first. I mean, what are you after in this?”
“I’m after a fur coat. What are you after?”
“I’m just out looking for a warm meal. No reason for either of us to come to any rash decisions. Maybe we could just walk a bit—talk things through?”
The man, a sporting fellow, agreed, and he and the bear plodded along in the snow.
Before long, the story was at its end, and the man indeed had a fur coat and the bear his warm meal. The rifle lay discarded amid the red sprinkled white snow.
Compromise can be a good thing—when a married couple can find some middle-ground or a business deal benefits all involved parties.
But often times, compromise can be the beginnings of destruction.
It all starts simply enough—just a conversation or a second look or the smallest of boundaries crossed. But it is often these tiny infractions that pave the way toward moral corruption. Typically fraud, infidelity, even murder, the grievous sins we commit can be traced back to a series of small compromises. Revelation 2 speaks of a compromise the local church had made with the world:
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. – Revelation 2:14-16
So just like the generations before them, the church at Pergamum was falling into small sins to appease the world around it. And the little missteps were paving the way to greater destruction—to use the Russian Proverb, they were conversing with a hungry bear.
Jesus tells them to repent or He would “fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He is referencing the double-edged sword He mentions elsewhere in Scripture, and how the sword has one side that cuts the way to Salvation—He will swing it and we can follow its path to repentance and mercy and to freedom. But, if we choose to ignore that edge of salvation, it is promised that the other edge will come bringing judgment.
This is stark imagery, and if I looked at my own compromise with similar severity, perhaps I would take repentance seriously and quit chatting with that which can destroy me.