The Innocence of Lot
One of the most vexing passages to me in Scripture (and there are quite a few!) has been 2 Peter 2:7. Here is versus 7-9:
“…and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”
This is a bizarre passage when you think back to the stories of Lot. In Genesis 13:10-12, Abraham and Lot are so wealthy that they need to split up so the land could support their herds. Abraham, the elder, is exceedingly gracious and gives the younger man the first pick of the land. Lot chooses the better land for himself. Instead of deferring to his elder cousin, he is selfish. The Bible notes that Lot’s land is around the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which were wicked. It also goes on to tell how God speaks to Abraham and gives him the remaining land in perpetuity and will bless him with many descendants. Lot’s decision will lead to hardship and trouble.
Then, in Genesis 14, the land of Sodom and Gomorrah (including Lot) are captured by raiding kings, and Abraham raises and army to rescue them. Lot still doesn’t take the hint. Finally, in chapter 19, we see the angels coming to destroy the cities, and Lot ‘rescues’ them from the perverse crowd, offering his daughters to be gang raped to protect his guests, as hospitality was one of the highest virtues in that culture. Finally, when the angels rescue him and his family, the daughters get Lot drunk and sleep with him.
Yet, Peter calls him righteous. Wow. There are just some passages in Scripture that make you want to question its inspired origin. Given that it is inspired, what then could Peter mean? I finally ‘got it’ one day, and I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it was to me—a shower of grace washing over me. Peter actually does explain himself. Lot was righteous in his soul and tormented by the sin around him. He was in a land of compromise, of bad choices, and yes, one in which he continued to choose to live, but nonetheless, he was righteous because of faith. There are two amazing points here: 1) God rescued him before he could be truly corrupted, and 2) innocence/righteousness is not something binary—on or off, you have it or you don’t—it is a state of being that can be worn away, dissolved like tooth enamel, and by grace, restored.
God knows His people and the limits of their endurance (not what they think they can endure, but what they actually can—I Corinthians 10:13), and will NOT allow them to be swept away by forces greater than themselves.
He also recognizes the stress we endure in this fallen world. While our actions, words, and thoughts matter (Romans 6!), His declaration of our righteousness is stronger than not only our environment, but also our choices. It is His declaration of righteousness that stands, for He is the judge, not our feelings or assessment of our own lives, and definitely not the opinions of any other. He will NOT allow us to be corrupted by either the world or our fallen nature, for we are redeemed.
As academics, we are in a world of pressure to conform to the academy’s image of success and morality. We have a God greater than our pressures and who WILL see His purposes accomplished in our lives. This frees us from worrying about right or wrong so that we can love and serve Him, and He will see us through the choices we face, even when we choose poorly.
That is a precious gift indeed.