I'm about to do something you have probably never heard another Bible teacher or preacher do: Defend Lot. Every time Lot is mentioned in sermons, the pattern is the same: Lot represents a believer who backslides into worldliness, becoming too closely associated with the world. He parts ways with his uncle Abraham, and slowly gets deeper and deeper into the world system. He starts out by living on the plains, then in the city, then by chapter 19 he is completely compromised. He's apparently on the city council (the rough equivalent of the city gates), is willing to give up his daughters to perverts, is unwilling to let go of the world system, then finally ends up doing unspeakable things with his daughters at the end of the chapter, never again being heard from in Scripture.
Remember what I said about narratives? They only tell us what happened, not what should've happened. If God doesn't specifically speak in the passage, we need to look elsewhere for his thoughts on what Lot was doing. Does God ever mention Lot again? Actually he does. Read 2 Peter 2:6-9. Peter (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) calls Lot “righteous” three times in two verses, and it looks like he calls him “godly” in verse nine. If the Lord--who knows everything inside and out about Lot and everyone else--calls him “righteous” (thrice), then perhaps we should think twice before flat-out condemning him.
Of course, our first instinct is to recoil at the very thought of handing our virgin daughters over to the mob in Sodom, but in that culture, Lot’s behavior is not so outlandish. In that value system, one protected one’s house guests from harm no matter the cost, even that of one’s own flesh and blood. This is not to justify Lot’s offer, but it does put it in some perspective. As for his drunken activity with them later, there’s no justification for that at all.
Yep, he certainly had lots of flaws, ways in which we're certainly not supposed to emulate him.
But that’s not the central issue, is it? In the mind of many sincere Christians, Lot’s first mistake was living with sinners in the first place. In their way of thinking, we're so much in danger of contamination from “the world” that we should avoid it whenever possible and certainly not get into leadership positions within it. But they seem to forget that our God is a missionary God, who sent his only Son into this dark sin-wrecked world, and he calls us to be salt and light here. What needed to take place was not for Lot to withdraw himself from Sodom. What Sodom needed was more people like Lot! If Sodom had just nine more men like Lot, then the city would have been spared.
How can we apply this? Well, think about the modern "Sodoms" in our day, both the literal ones and the more figurative ones, like certain professions. There are cities which have a certain reputation for lawlessness and egregious sin and rebellion. Or think about the professions of actor, or attorney, or salesman. These professions are not innately sinful, but they have certain reputations for one very good reason: Not enough salt and light in them. Salt was not only a spice but a preserving agent. If you leave meat out in the heat for a few days, what do you expect to happen? If you turn off the lights in a room, what do you think'll happen to it? Christians should not be ashamed to be God's representatives in those fields and in those cities. Not to disparage the sacrifices that international missionaries make, but in a very real sense believers who're called into certain professions are missionaries just the same.
We’ll talk about the dangers of worldliness at another time, but for now, let’s give Lot a break for being a righteous man in the midst of such an atmosphere.
Lord, with all his faults, Lot was doing something I sometimes fail to do: live among people who desperately need you. Help me to be the salt and light I need to be.
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