Compromise: Left, Right, Or Something Else?

Which are you—left, right, or somewhere in the middle?

spectrumWe’re apparently programmed to think of nearly every aspect of our lives in terms of a linear continuum.

Politics provides the most obvious example. Left/right, liberal/conservative, red/blue. While most of us don’t reside at an extreme, we’re certainly conditioned to think of ourselves at least on one side or the other of center.

But it’s not just politics. I’m struggling to come up with an example of a choice or behavior that doesn’t convey the implication of a continuum on which you’re either toward one end or the other or closer to the center, but everyone occupies some position along the line.

One of my friends holds a strictly literal interpretation of the bible. Another claims that scripture is conveys principles—the details aren’t important. I know a pastor who maintains that the bible is God’s complete revelation and another who says that “humans shouldn’t put a period where God placed a comma.”

I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable, or maybe out of place, with the notion that everything in life is represented by a left-right continuum. I think I finally understand why.

Continuums are about debate and compromise.

But compromise is inherently values-neutral. Compromise is about what’s possible, not what’s right. In order to “get things done” we take some of the good—and some of the bad—from each side. Everyone gets a bit of what they want and swallows some distasteful medicine. It’s the price of doing business in a democracy. I get that.

But the “muddled middle” of compromise doesn’t define truth. The center of the continuum may be the place of consensus, but that doesn’t make it right.

I believe in truth. I don’t claim to always—or even mostly—know what that truth is, but not being known doesn’t prevent truth from being, well, true.

And since I believe truth exists, my goal ought to be to discover as much of it as possible.

If that’s REALLY the goal, a lot of my behavior needs to change. I’d like to spend this week looking at some of that, but today I’d like to get your reaction to this idea:

Truth may not be anywhere on any continuum.

I’m thinking that the lines are human creations, expressions of our need to make sense and order from apparent chaos. But as long as we seek truth along a continuum, we’re always thinking in terms of debate and compromise.

TRUTH or RIGHT isn’t on the line at all.

I think that might have been Jesus’ message. Perhaps He was saying that the gospel isn’t left or right but a different thing entirely. Perhaps He was so radical precisely because He didn’t fit an existing category.

He wasn’t liberal or conservative or anywhere in between. He was something else altogether, something that didn’t fit into any human preconceptions. Some folks rejected Him, some followed Him. some tried to kill Him. Didn’t matter—He was still I AM.

What would change if we tried to simply know Him rather than boxing Him into the corner that makes us most comfortable?

How about you? What’s your response to the idea that TRUTH may not be anywhere on our lines?