There are so many ways the enemy seeks to undermine God’s work in us, and our ability to rely on and trust in God’s desire to use us. One of the most subtle—and effective—tools Satan uses against us is compromise. He whispers into our heart and spirit that “giving in” on little things isn’t so bad.
But here’s the problem. Those little things become bigger things, often without us even being aware of it. And soon we’re doing, saying, and writing things we never imagined we would. Things we know in our heart of hearts are not just dangerous, but flat-out wrong.
The end results of which are pretty ugly:
Speaking lies in the place of truth.
The need to repent.
But over all of this, is the ugliest thing of all. Idolatry.
Idolatry is about letting something else take God’s place in your heart. It’s about valuing your will, your desire, your ideas, your plans over God’s will, God’s instructions, God’s plan.
This has been happening since the Garden of Eden. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious: Don’t eat from that tree. And they eat from the tree
Sometimes—and this is what we want to focus on here—compromise starts with one small step.
There are consequences to this that come in the here and now, and even more so in the future. We wake up and find out we’re far away from where we wanted/hoped to be, and we can’t figure out how we got here.
There’s so many places we could go when we talk about compromise, but we’ll limit ourselves to a few examples of compromise that are relevant to us as writers—as people whose commodity is words.
Two Examples of Compromise Applicable to Writers
Compromise on the things we see and hear (compromise on what we take in)
Have you noticed how foul language and graphic or careless sexuality has infested so much of what we see on TV, streaming services, movies, and books?
For example, The Magicians could have been a terrific fantasy series, but it descended into a morass of depravity and of devaluing God. The story world’s gods were capricious and cruel, such that the characters had to kill them to save the pathetic world. And the world they killed these gods to save wasn’t worth saving.
So much of what I (Karen) watch in the evenings works its way into my dreams. I imagine it’s the same for many writers. And I wake up troubled. Like I’ve been fighting evil all night. Because I have been fighting evil all night.
Having all of that in our minds and hearts clutters them, so that we lose the ability to hear God. And we lose the ability to have our minds transformed by the Spirit like it says in Romans 12:1-2:
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
In other words, that junk in our minds numbs us. And that has consequences.
We need to be aware of the slippery slope of letting these things numb us. We need to retain our outrage.
I (Erin) once saw a movie—I don’t even remember the title—but it was about a quaker from a few centuries ago who somehow jumps through time and ends up in our century. The movie portrayed his outrage, his shock, his horror at the culture around him, and in particular, when someone spoke God’s name in vain.
Oh, that we had the same outrage.
Instead, how often do we hear the Lord’s name used carelessly, or even as a curse, and we barely notice? Daily? Hourly even? By kids and adults alike.
Yet the third commandment says, “You shall not misuses the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:3
The constant misuse of God’s name devalues it, and numbs us. That primes us for the next phase: sinful actions.
Here’s what Romans 1:28-32 tells us happens when we don’t want God in our knowledge any longer, and when we lose the ability to hear Him and have our minds transformed by God:
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
What’s in our minds translates into what we say and do. And that brings us to the second example of compromise we want to talk about.
Compromise with the Words We Speak and Write (Compromise on what comes out of us)
Our responsibility on earth is to be truth-tellers. We have been given a gift—a talent in using words, and we can use that to build up or to tear down.
But all the things we’ve been letting in our minds—the books we read, the TV we watch, all the unnecessary violence, gratuitous sex, foul language—undermine the idea that we can create solid stories without the use of such things.
This idea has seeped into the hearts and minds of Christian writers, who’ve come to believe that using them is simply being “realistic.” That to steer clear of such things in their work makes them somehow less authentic. And yet, story does not benefit from them. In fact, what I’ve seen is that they become more of the focus of the story than any theme or true story world. Which actually damages the power of the story rather than enhancing it in any way.
So what can we do?
Action steps to avoid compromise
1. Stop giving debased things entry into our mind and spirit.
The moment we realize something we’re watching, reading, or hearing has that focus, we need to turn it off or put it down and walk away. Yes, this is hard. We love story, and we want to see how it turns out. But that has a cost we shouldn’t be willing to pay.
2. Consider a media fast.
Take time off from television, movies, and even Facebook. Make your fast a significant time, like 3 months, to help give you perspective. I (Erin) did this and when I went back to TV, it was appalling. I had fresh eyes to see the depravity. And you will too.
Honestly, now I barely watch TV. It’s become unimportant. Because when you do a fast, you need to fill that time with something else, and when you fill it with God, with spending time with Him, reading His Word, praying, it’s far more fulfilling.
One other thing we want to mention: we’re all sinners who struggle with our own sin regardless of what we’re writing. A podcast by John Piper talked about how the problem with watching TV or movies with unsavory things also awakens a desire in us to sin and strengthens the bondage of something we may personally be fighting against (in the case of that particular podcast, sensuality). And the fight against that bondage can all be undone as we watch something on TV. He said, “Find the streams that are feeding the river of sensual desire and cut them off.”
3. Focus on speaking truth, on what builds up the body.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
4. Focus on speaking with gratitude.
Ephesians 5:1-7 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”
We partner with them when we watch, read, or take them into our minds and hearts. Instead, let’s work to be a fragrant offering and a sacrifice for God.
Thanksgiving gets our position in relation to God right: He’s sovereign, and we’re dependent on Him. He is in the position of the highest value in the universe He created. When we have that right, we’re not idolaters.
5. Value God over our own plans, ideas, rules, and even over story.
Let’s go back to the basis of why we compromise: idolatry. Idolatry is valuing our own plans, ideas, desires, rules, etc., over God. Over trusting Him, and valuing Him.
Adam and Eve sinned because they thought God was holding out on them. They didn’t trust Him to be good, wise, righteous, and a steward of their best interest. They didn’t value Him as God.
And sometimes, as Karen was saying when she talked about how hard it is to turn away from a movie or book or TV show, we value story over God. That hits us where we live. We’re writers, we love story. But here’s what 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Even story.
Final thoughts on Compromise
The world has it’s own idea of a slippery slope, which often is that if you give God access to places like schools and courtrooms and media, you’re surrendering your “freedom” to religious constraints. But in reality, the true slippery slope is making choices and allowing yourself to do, watch, say, or write things that don’t honor God. Because when we devalue or dishonor God, we put ourselves in a place where He won’t honor us. And here’s the thing: all it takes is one little step in the wrong direction for the slide down the slope to begin. This isn’t about living by rules, friends, it’s about honoring God. Every day. In every decision we make. It’s about being so familiar with the voice of God’s Spirit within us that we stop at the first indication that something isn’t right, and turn to God. Sure, we all love the excitement and fun of going down slides. But don’t let that initial thrill fool you. It’s not from God. In fact, it’s desensitizing you to the voice of God and His Holy Spirit. The slippery slope only leads one way: down. Instead, keep your focus up: on God. On His ways. And on the joy of living as He instructs. Because He made us. He knows us. And He knows how we work best.
We want to hear from you!
What do you think about the abundance of immorality, foul language, depravity, etc., in our culture and media?
How do you think we can guard ourselves from being affected by it?