Read Acts 16:1-5
1 Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. (NLT)
We can easily overlook apparently insignificant comments in Scripture. Let’s not overlook what Paul did when he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised prior to taking him on his next missionary journey.
Circumcision was important to Jews, even Jewish Christians, as a sign of belonging to God’s people. We read elsewhere of Paul challenging this. He warns against making too much of it: these old external signs are not to be the means by which followers of Jesus are divided. It is not that circumcision itself was an issue: it was just that if it was elevated into an essential it was confusing sign and substance. It would become a matter of pride.
And yet Paul has Timothy circumcised. The relevance of that for us is simply this: there are times when we make principled compromises. Paul figured that if Timothy was not circumcised, then it would cause unnecessary problems for the Jews he was trying to reach and for the Jewish Christians he wanted to encourage.
There are times when we draw a line in the sand and refuse to compromise. There are times when we decide that a particular battle is not worth fighting. Paul seemed to know when to be firm and when to be flexible. Giving in is not always the same as giving up.