Some years ago, I remember reading a story about a holy man sitting along the Ganges River who was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he began to notice that the river was suddenly rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots along the riverbank was about to drown. The holy man crawled out very cautiously onto the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him. After attempting to rescue the scorpion and being stung repeatedly, his hand had now begun to swell and he was in much pain. An observer came along and said to the holy man, “You are a very foolish man. Don't you know that is a scorpion, and it is in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting? Why risk your life to save such an ungrateful creature?” To which the holy man calmly replied, “It may be his nature to sting, but it is my nature to save. Must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?"
American history began with waves of immigrants coming from different countries and cultures to a new country hoping to find freedom, opportunity, and a new way of life. No other place in the world has such a diverse population. This is why America has proudly been known as the melting pot of the world. But, this metaphor is being redefined to describe a homogeneous society in which the expectation is that everyone must approve, accept, and adhere to whatever the culture dictates. The pressure to conform to society or face ridicule and branding as a bigot can be overwhelming. One cannot conform to a sick society without becoming sick himself. Such was the case with Lot.
We are told in 2 Peter 2: 7-8, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;).” The key words here are “vexed.” The first time the word is used it means “to wear down and exhaust.” The second time the word is used it means, “to question by applying torture like testing the purity of gold or silver with a touchstone, or to cause distress and harassment like a headwind to sailors.” The implication is clear that over time, Lot wore down under the repeated pressure of the society in which he lived. British statesman Andrew Lansley said, “Peer pressure and social norms are powerful influences on behavior, and they are classic excuses.” The great coercion of our day is being made to forget who we are and made to feel ashamed of what we believe. Learning from Lot’s example, what are the dangers we should avoid to prevent spiritual deterioration in these last days?
Lot chose impulse over inspiration. When Lot would separate from Abraham, he was given his choice of direction. Genesis 13: 10-13 records the moment, “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered...like the land of Egypt...and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked...” God is removed from the equation of his life and he begins walking by sight rather than faith. Lot is counting on his plans and philosophies to bring him success without the aid of God. The temptation that most often lies before us is to believe we can handle matters ourselves. Like a child thinking he can swim in the undertow, we discover a negligent moment in our walk with God can lead to devastating consequences. Saul decided God was wrong about not sparing Amalek, but as he took his last breath, an Amalekite “took the crown that was upon his head.” Solomon trusted his own wisdom as he married pagan wives and “his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” Demas tried to straddle the fence between God and the world, and he found the pull of the world was too strong for him to conquer. Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks wrote, “How many are there like children, who play till their candle be out, and then they go to bed in the dark!” As the days grow darker our devotion must grow deeper. Who knows when a careless step without God may lead to total apostasy from God.
Lot chose importance over integrity. In Genesis 19:1, we are told, “...and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom...” The idea of “sitting in the gate” in Scripture implies Lot had risen to prominence and was now occupying an office of authority. He was in a position that he could have made a difference, but instead he became clever and learned how to peacefully coexist with evil. Whether he called it tolerance, being lenient, or just open-mindedness, the applause of men had disguised the difference between reputation and character. When a man strives to establish harmony between good and evil, whether in relationships, morals, or doctrine, he stretches his conscience to devastating proportions. Abraham was drawn to the riches and resources of Egypt, but he could never have prepared himself for the reproach he would carry out of Egypt. Long before Samson was captured by the Philistines, he was captivated by their women. When Jehoshaphat aligned with the godless Ahab to unite the divided kingdom, he lacked the vision to discern that his descendants would “walk in the ways of the house of Ahab.” Nineteenth century American theologian Tryon Edwards wrote, “Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another – too often ending in the loss of both.” A man that surrenders his standards to help the world achieve their purposes will ultimately pay more than he was compensated by the world.
Lot chose indulgence over intolerance. When the lustful mob came knocking on Lot’s door, Lot says an unbelievable thing in Genesis 19:8, “Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man...do ye to them as is good in your eyes...” While Lot would have told you he did not participate in the sin that brought judgment to Sodom, the permissive atmosphere had distorted his values and virtues which led to his own foolish behavior. It is of no surprise that later on these same two daughters would bear children of their father. Once the barriers of shame are removed, new horizons of evil indulgence are more easily reached. After watching years of unrestrained violence and wickedness, Noah was unable to drink his wine in moderation and keep his clothes on. After years of watching Pharoah’s gods being built, Aaron was eager to show his skills of engineering a golden calf. After years of hanging out with rough fishermen, Peter resorted to coarse language when it helped him blend in with the crowd. Edmund Burke said, “The greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feeling for others but from an over-sensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires.” Those who boast of their tolerance are often the same ones who should be ashamed of their indulgences.
The trait that always marks honorable men and women is the ability to maintain steadfastness in the face of difficulty and under the pressure to change. With the sands of our culture shifting dangerously by the hour, we find ourselves daily having to make a choice between risk and comfort. But make no mistake about it, indifference can never be truly neutral or without consequence. When you find yourself being struck at by the world, there is a good chance you are still doing what is right and best.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2015 Alan Stewart