If you haven't figured it out by now, the reason that Lot's story - Lot's real story - is so important for us is because so many of us are living Lot's story. So many of us have lives filled with those we love who...just don't believe. We have lived a righteous witness before them. They have seen the blessings of God. They have known of the angels that have come to visit. They have heard the truth of judgment. They can smell the sulfur. And it's just not enough for them.
Or, in some cases, we have been able to bring them with us a certain distance. They have come to visit our church, maybe even signed up for a small group. They read the Bible we gave them for Christmas a few years ago. At least, they keep it on their coffee table. They are the object of so much of our prayer. And yet, for some reason, they can't stop looking back. They can't take their eyes off the world.
Lot's daughters, Lot's wife - these are those that we know and love. These are our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our daughters, our sons, our neighbors, our friends. And as hard as it is to accept, the truth is that some of them will simply not be saved.
But hear me on this - if they are not, it will not be our fault.
We feel some kind of sense of personal failure when someone doesn't come to Christ. Like maybe we are bad at evangelism. Or maybe something in our own witness is broken. If only we were more articulate. Or persuasive. Or faithful. Or righteous. If we invested more time. Or if we performed more acts of service. Certainly, we tell ourselves, there must be something we can do to ensure that those we love most come to understand the saving grace of Jesus and to want that. If they don't, we think it's our fault. We think we just have to try harder. Or do something different. Or do something better.
Lot loved his daughters. There's not question about that. He loved his wife; we know that for certain. There is no doubt as to the depth or the authenticity of Lot's love for his family. But his daughters were not his; they were their own women, belonging to their husbands and to the world they had chosen. Nor could Lot have blindfolded his wife so that she couldn't choose anything else.
We don't get to force those we love to love God. We can't. We cannot, in so many cases, break the ties of the world that have hold on them. We cannot break someone else's addiction. We cannot heal their brokenness. We cannot bind their wounds. Jesus can, but if they won't come to Jesus with us....
It hurts. It hurts so bad because we know that everything they're looking for, Jesus has for them in spades. And even more than that. It hurts because we believe that if they'd just listen, if they'd just give it a fair hearing, they'd hear what grace sounds like and they'd never turn back. It hurts because we want so badly for those we love to be saved and yet, the truth remains...we can't save them.
If we could, we wouldn't have needed the Cross.
That's the double-edged sword of Jesus. He is so good and the promise is so amazing, but if we were capable of getting those we love all the way there, we wouldn't have needed Him in the first place.
Salvation is, ultimately, a work of God, no matter how righteous or faithful we are. That is true in our own lives, and it is true in the lives of those we love. And the reality is that sometimes, we can do everything we can possibly do - and do it right and do it well - and it just won't be enough. It won't be enough to tear our daughters away from the world, and it won't be enough to keep our wife from looking back, and it won't be enough to save those we love.
So...what do we do? We...run for the hills with everyone we love who's willing to come with us and we keep our eyes focused on what lies ahead. Maybe they'll see that spark in our eye. Maybe they'll see that hope shimmering. Maybe they'll see how fixed our gaze is and decide they, too, want to look at the horizon and not back at flaming Sodom.
We continue to live our lives in faith, hoping, praying, longing, and leading and by the grace of God, some of those we love will come with us. They will.
And those that don't?
Well, God has done even greater things than this, hasn't He? I believe He still can. I believe He still is.