Summary: I think there are at least three kinds of compromise, and each of them is illustrated by Daniel's experience in Babylon.
A man who had been a notorious thief was telling a friend how
going to church had really changed his life. He was in a store just
that week and saw the nicest pair of boots. They were just his size,
and while he was there the owner of the store stepped out. He could
have easily slipped them under his coat and gotten away, and
ordinarily he would have, but this time he resisted the temptation.
The devil said to take them but the Lord said not to, and there I was
in the middle. He concluded, "I didn't know what to do, so I
compromised. I took a pair of shoes instead."
Obviously his life was not as dramatically changed as he
thought, for his compromise still left him as a thief. The question is,
however, is all compromise of this same worthless nature? Is
Reginald Kauffman accurate when he says, "Compromise is never
anything but an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the
terror of a coward." Or is Edmund Burke the one who speaks the
truth when he says, "All government indeed, every human benefit
and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act is founded on
compromise and barter." Any wise student seeing these on a true or
false test would mark them both false, for one has a never and the
other an every, and an absolute is almost always false. Neither
extreme can be defended which says that compromise is always a
virtue or always a vice.
This question on compromise is stimulated by this first chapter
of Daniel because it appears that there is a contradiction in Daniel's
attitude. He refuses to compromise when it comes to eating heathen
food, but he submits without objection to a heathen education and a
heathen name. Some commentators question Daniel's values here.
They wonder why he draws the line where he does. It seems to be
such a minor point on which he resists, and then he goes along with
more major issues. It has to be admitted that Daniel did enter into
involvement with the pagan culture on many levels. But he refused
to do so on this level of eating. I think it is worth our time to try and
discover the difference, for this would give us instruction for our
own lives as to our own relationship to our culture. I think there are
at least three kinds of compromise, and each of them is illustrated by
Daniel's experience in Babylon. First we see-
I. COMPROMISE WHICH IS A VIRTUE.
The first thing we have to do is establish that this can be so, and
that compromise is not an absolute evil. John Herman Randall Jr.
wrote, "Now anybody who is capable of learning anything from
experience knows that the only way to get along with people, the
only way to do anything together with anybody else, is through
compromise. You don't need exceptional brains to realize that. You
need only to be married or to have a friend." If your wife insists
that you go on a picnic on a Saturday, and you insist that you go on
it on Sunday, and both of you hold your conviction with the view
that it is evil and cowardly to give in, you have a situation which one
can predict will lead to a dark future.
If one yields to the other and avoids the conflict, it is a virtue.
It is a virtue because it compromises only personal interests and not
any principle or moral that affects your relationship to God.
Examples of this kind of compromise are endless. It would be tragic
if there were no such thing as compromise between management and
labor. It neither made any concession, but were uncompromising in
their demands, our whole economic system would be in chaos, and
nothing would ever get settled. One could make 20 compromises a
day on the level of human relationships, and not in any way be out
of God's perfect will.
This is the kind of compromise Daniel made on the matter of
the pagan education he was to receive. He no more compromised his
loyalty to God at this point than does a Christian youth who goes off
to a secular university to study ancient mythology under an atheistic
professor. Daniel was getting one of the best educations of the day.
The Chaldeans were advanced and cultured, and they had plenty to
offer. The fact that they also had some weird courses on astrology
and magic made no difference. A youth like Daniel, who had been
instructed in the truth, and who had an intimate relationship with
the true God, would be no more disturbed than a mature Christian
today would be by taking a course in mythology.