People And Principle

By Daniel H. King

Some things are worth a little inconvenience. In fact, there are a few things in life that are worth a lot of inconvenience. Among them is principle.

It is one of those things that sets us apart from the lower creatures and makes of us beings for whom eternity is prepared. Self-survival is the highest of all priorities to most of the baser forms of life on our planet. But for man there are some concerns which tower above self-preservation in importance. Principle is one of them. There are to his mind principles for which he is willing to sacrifice and even to die if need be. One could go so far as to say that if he proved unwilling to make some sort of person sacrifice upon the altar of principle he would be thought an ignoble man, perhaps even a coward.

I am personally indebted and duly grateful to my forebearers who gave their lives for the principle of freedom. When I offer prayer in the public assembly of the church (and often in private) I express my appreciation to the God of heaven for the freedom to worship Him according to the dictates of His Word in accord with my conscience. But I am ever mindful that this freedom did not come to me by accident or by divine flat. It is a heritage written in the blood of unnamed thousands who suffered and died to bestow it upon me and others unknown to them. It was not for me that they died, nor even for their loved ones and friends at home. They died for freedom, the sweet principle of independence from political and religious bullies, the right to choose for oneself, to live without fear of oppression or ill-treatment at the whims of others. Though I do not know them I love and honor these dead for their noble sacrifice for principle.

Often I have thought how great was their sacrifice. They left home and family, hearth and fire, to march in ranks with men they did not formerly know. They gave up their wives and children, not just for a time but for good. The tender embrace of a loving wife, the life together, the joys of oneness – these all and more were laid freely and willingly upon the altar of principle. None has thought them cruel or crazy for it. We rather honor them for their giving of themselves for something we all believe to be higher and better. They died for an ideal, for a principle, and principles are worth more than individual people. The protection and welfare of a whole people should take precedence over the comfort and pleasure of a few.

There is a need for us to renew our dedication to principle. Too many of us these days consider the comfort and pleasure of one person to be paramount in every area of life. In fact, it is of relatively little concern when measured against the majestic grandeur of principle as it touches the common life of an entire people. Our freedom as a people would be in the severest jeopardy if it rested alone in the hands of some of our contemporaries. They see only their own selfish concerns as worth any time or effort and care nothing at all for generations yet unborn. They worry me.

What worries me even more is when I see and hear their counterparts in the church of my Lord. The church exists because Christ died so that it (and we who are in it) might live. It began upon the note of personal sacrifice. Christ died not only for people but for principle, though. It was His ultimate desire to deliver men from slavery to sin and motivate them to live by the principles of His kingdom. When we hear of those who put the comfort and pleasure of one person at the head of the list and neglect the importance of spiritual principles, it certainly gives us cause for concern.

A case in point: Jesus taught that there is but one cause for -putting a marriage partner away and taking another. That cause is infidelity (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). When that happens, only the innocent party is free to take another partner; Jesus did not free the guilty. In discussions that center around cases of unscriptural divorcements these days, the teaching of the Bible and weighty spiritual principles are failing victim before an overriding concern for the comfort and pleasure of individuals. I am no more cold nor hardhearted than anyone else in my handling of these situations. I feel deeply for those so involved. But there is no room for compromising spiritual principles in this thing. The solidarity of the home is at stake. The principle of martial fidelity is at stake. The sacredness of the martial union is in the balances. If we give an inch of holy ground it will touch thousands of homes and generations yet unborn will arise to curse our day. It is tragic that at times we must choose, but choose we must! Let us choose principle over people and not be found loosening where God has bound: “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matt. 19:12, NIV).

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, p. 595
October 6, 1983