We Are To Pitch Our Tents Towards God, Not Towards Sodom
12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
Each of us will eventually be faced with a choice. When we reach that fork in the road, we will have to choose which way we should go. And though there may be more than two choices, there is usually one good choice, and not-so-good choice.
Lot was given first pick of where he would like to go. Rather than choose the land as far from sin as possible, he chose the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah. In itself, choosing this direction is not evil. However, we must be very careful when we choose to dwell near evil, because constant exposure to wickedness can deaden our revulsion to it.
In today world, in Western Culture, we have reports where people are being raped and murdered, and rather than help the innocent victims, like the Good Samaritan, people turn the cameras of their smartphones on and, in wonder, record the wickedness of men, only to later post the videos of the encounter on such file-sharing services as YouTube, hoping that it will “go viral.” In a world where people would willingly allow unspeakable evil happen to their neighbor to generate ratings on their YouTube channel, they have become inured to the effects of evil.
The path to desensitization is a slow and insidious process. Once we become desensitized to something, we can properly justify its existence, and if we are not careful, embrace it as normal, natural, socially acceptable, and then preferable. Let’s look to the life of Lot to see how “pitching our tents towards Sodom” can lead a person from revulsion to acceptance and “tolerance.”
Parked in the Periphery
When the groups of men of Abram and his relative Lot became so large that there was quarreling between the two group, Abram told Lot to choose a direction and he would go in the other. Lot chose the fertile plains towards Sodom, and “pitched his tents towards Sodom.”
When we intentionally head towards wickedness, we need to be particularly careful that we are not influenced by our situation. We are called to be light and salt. But we must not be deceived:
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Lot, in choosing what appeared to be the more verdant land that promised to greatly prosper his family, chose an area near a people who participated in great wickedness. This would eventually lead to his family’s downfall.
Gathered at the Gates
After Lot had been captured and later rescued by Abram, we later see that he was sitting in the city gates. This was the prominent position where the elders of the city would gather. Lot, as a believer in the Lord God Almighty, should have been of great influence in the land. He was now a part of the city elders, the equivalent of being on City Council. He had every opportunity to talk to the people, but as we will see, the people did not heed his example, and later would threaten him for even suggesting that they abstain from abject wickedness.
Lot was no longer in the periphery, he was an active part of the community, and actually making decisions for the community. On the surface this would appear to be an ideal situation. But let’s look at how much the people actually respected and revered his position of authority with them:
Lot’s place was now at the city gate. He was in the thick of things. He could either be an influence for good, or “go with the flow” and “go along to get along” so that he wouldn’t rock the boat and possibly damage the economic benefits that came with such a position and influence. Let’s see exactly how much he had influenced the culture:
4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
We can see that they, in their wicked and insatiable desires, immediately classified him as a foreigner, and an obstacle to their carnal desires. They actually threatened to do worse to Lot than they had planned to do to the angels. It is interesting to note that they are making a comment about Lot’s attitude towards their behavior. Note that they say, …”and now he wants to play the judge!” (emphasis mine). He apparently had not said a thing to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah about their wickedness. He would have been soundly trounced and driven out of there had he said a single word that offended them. Their reaction conclusively shows that he remained quiet about their lifestyle until now. We can only speculate as to why. But the Bible does say:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But now let’s look at Lot’s reaction. While protecting visitors was of utmost importance in the culture regarding hospitality at the time, rather than rebuking them, he offered his two daughter’s to them to be ravaged with their peculiar predilections. While it is true that in Lot’s time women were not thought of as highly as they are today in Western culture, this was an abomination – to sacrifice your own children. Would it not be better to protect your family, and go down swinging? Lot compromised by potentially harming his innocent family in order to try to maintain peace and the hope of still living among people who might very well have done unspeakable horrors to his innocent children.
Lot had been influenced by the culture rather than influencing the culture. There is always the danger that, when living in the midst of cultural decay, we adopt the attitudes of what we see around us as acceptable, and don’t even realize how deeply we have been affected by wickedness until a time of desperation and great trial comes upon us. It is only then that we will see how we will respond. Which training and beliefs will win through the trial – the teachings and beliefs in Almighty God, or the Godless beliefs of the culture we have CHOSEN to live in?
Paul indicated that we are to separate ourselves from the world. This is not to separate us physically from the world, but rather to separate our values, beliefs, morals, and actions from what the world system teaches. As we go about our ways, we must constantly be in communication and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and walk yielded to the Holy Spirit of God, lest we find ourselves slowly being sucked into culture, and eventually, indistinguishable from it.
When we reach this stage – where the way we act is indistinguishable from the world around us – that we find that we have become carnal Christians. We are no longer disciples of Christ, but rather holding on to a semblance of piety, spouting belief in the holy word of God, and perhaps even memorizing the word, but not allowing its power to transform our lives into the character and caliber of people as befits us as image-bearers of God:
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
When we get to this stage, we are confronted by a holy, almighty God:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I influencing culture, or is culture influencing me?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You are a holy God, and cannot stand sin in Your presence. Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me. Show me my transgressions, and expose any inroads that the enemy has purchased in my soul. Help me to see how egregious this is to You, and to be shocked again at the vileness of sin. Give me a right perspective that aligns completely with Your heart and Your word. Let me not go my own way, but rather purchase gold refined by Your fire, so that I may be restored to You. Help me to be a powerhouse influence in culture. And if that costs me dearly, so be it. I would rather be hated by men and near to You than to be loved by men and spewed out of Your mouth. Help me to fight the emotional battles that need to be fought, and provide me with the strength to have solid footing when there are consequences for speaking up for You. I announce to the world this day that my allegiance is with Almighty God, and not culture. Do with me what You will, I already know my eternal future. Let me say to the world, “come with me that you may have life, and have it super-abundantly”, and know in my heart that You are sovereign over all, Lord God. This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.