commitment and compromise

I got an e-mail from Stephen yesteday, and he happened to mention that the Spanish word for commitment is compromiso. Which seemed very close to "compromise." The possible connection between these intrigued me, so I looked it up.

Here's the entymology and current usage (from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary):


[F. compromis, fr. L. compromissum a mutual promise to abide by the decision of an arbiter, fr. compromittere to make such a promise; com- + promittere to promise.]

1. A mutual agreement to refer matters in dispute to the decision of arbitrators. [Obsolete]

2. A settlement by arbitration or by mutual consent reached by concession on both sides; a reciprocal abatement of extreme demands or rights, resulting in an agreement.

3. A committal to something derogatory or objectionable; a prejudicial concession; a surrender; as, a compromise of character or right.

So we see the original meaning having to do with a mutual promise (literally, promise together), which is very similar to our idea of "commitment." But from this good-sounding "promising together" we end up with "arbitration," "an abatement of extremes" (which also means giving up extreme good), or even "a prejudicial concession; a surrender; as, a compromise of character or right." Not so good-sounding.

Of course, our promises (commitment) to God do not result in compromise, only our promises together with other people. And I even see our many commitments to other people (which individuals and groups are always demading) often conflicting with our one, single-minded commitment to God. Paul warned about this when he wrote about marriage:
The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.

And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. (1 Cor 7.32-34)

Our commitment to God, however, does not conflict with our commitment and love for others. Because our commitment to God is commitment to Love.

Do we need other commitments? One way I've resisted the demands for commitments is in refusing official membership here (while still living in community and full interdependence). This is seen as reluctance to commit. But have I not already committed myself fully to the one Community? And doesn't that also include the Christians here?

Commitments divide us and lead directly to compromise. God calls us to one commitment--to love:
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Rom 13.8-9)