It’s an issue that I think all Christians deal with: trying to live “in the world” without being “of the world.” The world bombards us constantly with the stuff of sin — greed, lust, pride, arrogance, deceit. Sometimes it seems like we fight all week against ourselves and our human nature and then find ourselves in worship on Sunday yearning for the day when we will be set free from this earthly battle. God’s word teaches us that we are to live as a people in the world and yet set apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9-10), sojourners and exiles wandering in the wilderness of a temporary existence. Christ calls us to strike the delicate balance between going into the world to witness and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) while not being conformed to the world (Romans 12:2) or becoming unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). It’s a very difficult thing, actually.
In Beth Moore’s The Patriarchs study, I found her description of Abram’s relationship with Lot to be an amazing illustration of why God calls us to be separate yet connected to the world. We read in Genesis 13 about how Abram and Lot travel together until strife causes them to go their separate ways. Abram goes west to the land of Canaan, where God continues to lay out his blessing plan for Abram and his descendants. Lot goes east (historically not a good direction to go in the Biblical narrative), moving his tent “as far as Sodom” — a place whose people are promptly described as “wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13). How many times have we been conscious of a loved one who has chosen to move ever closer to Sodom in this life? A married friend who has become involved in an extramarital affair? A sister who has begun to gamble on-line? A college student who has abandoned his faith because it just doesn’t fit into campus life?
In Genesis 14, an escaped prisoner rushes to Abram to tell him that Lot has been taken captive in a battle between kings of the region. Why had Lot been taken captive? Because in the process of the battle, when the enemy kings took possession of Sodom and Gomorrah, they also took Lot who was no longer dwelling “near” Sodom, but was “dwelling in Sodom” (Genesis 14:12). Apparently, making the move from living near to living in Sodom disabled Lot from being able to save himself from the hands of the enemy. Abram, living peacefully in Canaan, proceeds to gather his group of 318 men and rescue Lot from the forces of 4 kingdoms.
Although we are called to be set apart from the “Sodoms” in this world, we are still called to be involved and aware. God shows us that in our separateness we will be strengthened so that we will be equipped to respond. In this way we can be sensitive to the realities of sin in our lives as well as the lives of others — we can more promptly try to intervene when we see a friend or loved one going down a path that will only lead to a quagmire of sin and destruction. As Beth Moore so aptly states, “After all, each of us knows a Lot in Sodom.”