Are We Like Lot?
In our Wednesday night Bible study we are slogging our way through II Peter and, last night, we were in II Peter 2. This book, and in particular this chapter, with its no-holds-barred condemnation of false teachers, is not what you could call uplifting. Peter is brutally blunt in his description of what happens to false teachers, particularly blatantly immoral ones, and to those who follow them.
Along the way we stumbled into a long discussion on the description of Lot as “a righteous man.” We spent some time in the story of Lot in Genesis 19 where he comes across as something less than a stellar saint. Some in our group thought the discussion was meaningless because “the bible says Lot was righteous, case closed.” Others picked up from the verses that Lot was emotionally and spiritually distressed as only the righteous can be when confronted with blatant sin around them. I found myself in this group but, like some of the others, found Lot’s actions dubious at best. In the end we found the whole subject to be a ringing endorsement for the grace of God because, after all, “if Lot was deemed righteous there is hope for us too.”
But in the end the subject shifted to comparing ourselves with Lot, not so much spiritually but rather culturally. There was Lot, treading water in a sea of iniquity, grieved on the inside but seemingly doing nothing to either challenging the prevailing culture or separating himself from it. The question was raised – are we the same way? Are we swimming in an ever-decaying culture where morality is going out the window? If so, what should we do about it? I ended up thinking about this long into the night.
My primary reaction is to think that, while morality is seriously changing, it is not declining. In fact, our culture is growing increasingly rigid on sexual morality in particular. There is no faster way to feel the moral wrath of our culture than to speak against the accepted morality. The problem is that traditional Christian morality is rapidly moving toward being on the outside looking in.
The historic cornerstone of Christian sexual morality has been the restriction of sex to being within a married (for life) heterosexual relationship. On many levels this is now frowned upon. Don’t like sex outside of marriage? There is something wrong with you. Think that “one man, one woman” is the only accepted relationship? You are bigot. Oppose divorce? You are an unfeeling brute. The problem is not immorality but a changed morality.
So what is a Christian to do? Some, including a few last night, champion the idea that, thanks to the wise leadership of our current President, we are on the cusp of a great resurgence of traditional morality. I disagree. There is no way to unscramble that egg, particularly not through legislative or executive political power.
As an evangelical I am a firm believer in a change of heart through the saving grace of God. I believe that the song “I once was lost but now am found” can be a reality in anyone’s life. I accept and believe that no one, absolutely no one, is beyond the reach of the grace of God. But the only active morality I actually change is my own. I cannot change the heart of another.
Frankly I think too many of us have lost sight of what is important. We focus on a losing battle of trying to enforce what we think is moral behavior and miss chance after chance to speak the truth in love to those around us. We sit in our echo chambers decrying the morality “out there.”
The battle to recodify our morality is over – we lost. When we come together and whine about culture we are like Lot; we are simply anguished on the inside. Even worse, we might, like some our Puritan forefathers, grow to smugly see ourselves as the elect and turn our backs on others. Maybe we need to spend more time eating with, and listening to, “tax collectors and sinners.” Lot held on to his inner anguish as he (apparently) did nothing but silently grieve. It could have been worse. He could have said “Yippie!” when told Sodom was to be destroyed. Are we like Lot? Better? Or worse?