All through history, people have had to choose between acting according to principle and acting according to pragmatism.
When we act according to principle, we do what is right, regardless of the consequences.
When we act according to pragmatism, we do what we believe will give us the results we want to see. “The ends justify the means” is the ultimate in pragmatic philosophy.
Which is right? Do we act according to principle and endure possible shame, ridicule, and harm? Or, do we be pragmatic, doing what we need to do in order to get the results we want to see – regardless whether it violates our conscience, morality, or ethics?
Our answer comes right from the Bible.
Queen Esther had to make the choice between pragmatism and principle. Pragmatism told her that she may be harmed if she stood up for what was right. Pragmatism told her that maybe she could be more effective by NOT taking a stand, by violating her conscience. Yet, in the end, principle won the day as she resolved to do what was right, regardless of the circumstances. She declared that she would do right and, “if I perish, I perish.”
The three Hebrew teens had to choose between pragmatism and principle. Pragmatism told them to conform. Pragmatism told them to participate in the politics and social expectations of the day. Pragmatism told them that it was okay to violate their conscience, because they would prevent something bad from happening if they just participated the way they were expected. Yet, they chose to stand on principle instead, determined to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.
Pragmatism told Jeremiah to conform to the political and social expectations of the day. Pragmatism told the Apostle Paul to shut his mouth and participate in the religious structure of the day. Pragmatism told Peter to stop preaching the Gospel else he would be beaten by the Jewish religious leaders. Yet, in each case, these people chose principle over pragmatism, choosing to endure suffering, hardship, bad consequences, and the ridicule of their friends rather than violate their conscience.
We are faced today with the same dilemmas. What should we do? Should Christians today choose to violate principle by being pragmatic in what they say, how they act, and how they vote?
The Bible gives a pretty clear answer. Our choices should always be principled, not pragmatic. If every professing Christian stood on and acted upon principle, what a different nation this would be!