One of the lesser-known characters, and lesser-discussed, in the Scriptures is Lot, Abraham's nephew. For years, Lot traveled with Abraham. They herded their livestock together. Their houses grew together. In fact, it was only when both became too wealthy and amassed houses too big that they split apart, meaning that Lot learned a great deal - and acquired a great deal - from Abraham's blessing.
And the last time we see Lot, he's fleeing from a burning Sodom and Gomorrah, his wife tragically turning to look and becoming a pillar of salt.
In fact, the story of Lot gets so far buried in Genesis that when we think about Sodom and Gomorrah, we think only about sin. Only about atrocity. Only about fire and brimstone. And never about Lot.
We spend our time discussing the finer points of God's vengeance. Trying to discern what the actual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was, as though we can narrow it down to just one thing. Some have said it must be homosexuality, as the men of the town came after the angels of the Lord who had visited Lot that night. Others have argued it was not homosexuality, but it was inhospitality that was the real issue - the town made no safe place for the angels to stay.
The truth about Sodom and Gomorrah is that their sin was not so simple as either of these, but rather, they were perverse through and through. God called them thoroughly wicked, which means He wasn't concerned about one particular behavior over another, but had witnessed a complete turning away from Him. A complete fallenness. A horrible brokenness that corrupted every fiber in the fabric of their being. It's not that they were homosexuals or unwelcoming; it's that they were unrepentant sinners, through and through. There was nothing good left in their hearts.
Except for Lot's.
Lot, having come of age under the example of his uncle, Abraham, maintained his righteousness, even in such a sinful place. When the angels come, it is Lot who does not exhibit the sinful nature of the rest of the city. When God readies to send about His judgment, it is Lot who He spares.
We cannot - and should not - overlook this, for the story of Lot is the story of so many of us. We are living in a world that seems wicked, perverse through and through. A fallen world that doesn't seem to care any longer about its sin or its brokenness, but seems to be pushing itself to new levels of depravity every day.
We've seen the headlines. We've heard the stories. We've witnessed them firsthand, even sometimes in the church herself. Men have turned from God, and it's not just about one thing - it's not just about the "big" issues; it's every little thing.
And we, who are a people of faith, find ourselves asking more desperately, more defeatedly, every day - is there any hope for us? How can we remain righteous in a place like this?
The truth is that many of us aren't. Many of us have fallen to the ways of the world, claiming that we must play by her rules if we ever want to have anything, be anything, do anything at all here. Claiming that we have to live the way the world tells us to live because that's the only thing that works here, that's the only way to function in this fallen place. We have become just as deceitful, just as deceptive, just as depraved as the world around us, while still proclaiming our love for God and our sorrow that it "has" to be this way, that we "have" to be this way.
But it doesn't; we don't. That's what the life of little-known Lot teaches us. There is a way to remain righteous in a sinful world, even in the most sinful world. There is a way to live above the board, to live a life holy and pure even in a despicable place. This broken world doesn't have to break us. It doesn't have to change who we are at the core of our heart. It doesn't have to draw us into its depravity. We can remain righteous.
We simply have to choose to and then act accordingly.
If Lot can do it in a place like Sodom and Gomorrah, how much more can we in a place like this?