by William E. Hill, Jr., c. 1968
THE MAN GOD DID NOT USE
A U.P.U.S.A. MINISTER said to me one day just after the ’67 Confession had been adopted, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” Four thousand years ago in Sodom, a good man by the name of Lot also said to himself, “I don’t like what goes on here, but I can live with it.” The Bible tells us that “Lot vexed his righteous soul” over the sins of Sodom. But why would Lot want to live with it when he could just as easily be elsewhere and not have to “vex his righteous soul” with the sins of his neighbors. No doubt, Lot said to himself, “Sodom is a wicked city—Sodom is an unbelieving city—perhaps I can do something to help these people of Sodom. Perhaps I can witness to them! Maybe I can change Sodom.”
Actually, however, Lot’s real reasons for being in Sodom were different from these which he gave to himself. Lot was in Sodom in order to make a living. He wanted to make a good living and he saw that he could do it in Sodom. That’s the reason he went there and that is the reason he stayed.
Lot’s purpose in being in Sodom, also, was to enjoy the good things of civilization. He didn’t like being separated from them. He had left Ur of the Chaldees with his Uncle Abraham when he was a young man. He missed all of the conveniences and pleasures of civilization. He had seen possibilities in being with his Uncle Abraham and had prospered out in the wide open spaces. But still he craved the pleasures, benefits and social contacts of civilization.
Lot was in Sodom, too, because he wanted not only a living, but wealth. He was in Sodom and he was going to have his part of it. Just making a living wasn’t satisfying to him. He wanted to make a killing. He knew that Sodom was the place to do it.
In the fourth place, Lot went to Sodom because he wanted to rise on the ladder of success, to become prominent, to become well-known, to become a leader. This he could not do out in the wide open spaces. His Uncle Abraham delighted more in communion with God than in attaining success and becoming powerful. Not Lot. It was all right to communicate with God and in wicked Sodom he could do that, he said to himself. Why not enjoy communion with God here since God was anywhere and you could worship as well in the atmosphere of Sodom and out in the wide open spaces. So “Lot chose Sodom.” Though the sins of his neighbors vexed him greatly, he stuck with Sodom. He was the kind of man who said, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” In spite of the wickedness of his neighbors, he went on living with it.
“IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT”
Now this is something which every missionary has to do, but he is doing it for a different purpose, He is not doing it to make a living. He is not doing it to make a killing. He is not doing it to enjoy the benefits of civilization, nor to rise high on the ladder of success. He is doing it to bring Christ to people who are in darkness, to obey his Lord’s command. So he, too, has to “vex his righteous soul” with the wickedness around him. His main business is, however, to replace that wickedness with righteousness rather than to make money or to make a success out if it for himself.
A true Christian today works out in the world, has to face a degree of the same thing that Lot had to face. Oftentimes his righteous soul is vexed by things that are done on the job and among his neighbors. But if he is a dedicated Christian, he is not there to make a living, not there to make a killing, not there to find success, not there to get the gadgets and comforts of life. A true, witnessing Christian seeks to bring Christ to others wherever he is and to turn wickedness into righteousness wherever he goes. He is there because he feels God has placed him there to do a job. Lot had no such motive, at least judging from all the indications that are given to us in Scripture. While he maintained his integrity, did not join in with the wickedness of his neighbors and was very much upset by what they did, yet his witness to them, if there was any, was not effective because they knew that his main reasons for being in Sodom were the same reasons that they had for being in Sodom. So they were not impressed by his righteousness or his religion.
There came a time when Lot had to leave Sodom, but he did not leave very willingly, only reluctantly. His wife left more reluctantly. When Lot left Sodom, she would not look toward the Lord. She looked toward Sodom, just as Lot had led her to do in his original decision. And though she got out of Sodom, she perished with Sodom because her heart was there. Lot’s children, also, most of them, perished in Sodom where they had, no doubt, learned the wickedness of the Sodomites and had participated fully in the wicked life of that wicked city. They had no idea of leaving. Even when they had a chance, most of them scoffed at it, with the exception of the two daughters, who, though they left, had become so thoroughly brainwashed in the wickedness of Sodom, that they still acted like Sodomites.
Such is the price that a man pays when he sets his heart on the wrong things, even when he sets his heart on ANYTHING except the righteousness of God.
“GET OUT!” BUT LOT LINGERED
When a man finds himself in the midst of a wicked, unbelieving atmosphere, sometimes God comes to him and says, “The time has come for you to leave. This thing has gotten too rotten. You no longer have a mission here.” “But,” a man says, “my investments are here, my home is here, my friends are here.” God says, “Go.” The attachments, however, blind him, and his roots run too deep, so he rationalizes. He still clings to the delusion that he can do some good there. Even though God says, “Go,” he hesitates.
Increasingly, today, Christians and particularly ministers, are faced with such a crisis. The organized church is becoming more and more corrupt. In many of our major denominations much of the leadership is in the hands of unbelievers. Lies of Satan are being propagated from pulpits. They are being taught in the colleges and seminaries. People of God are being brainwashed with the propaganda of Satan. There comes a time when God is saying to a man, “Get out!” Sometimes the man’s hesitancy arises not out of concern for his witness within, but out of minor concerns such as, how can I get along in my old age without my annuity. How will I get along in a strange denomination? Suppose I can’t get a church? All the prestige I have built up in my ministry will be lost. Some of my best friends will turn against me, I’ll be called a fool, a fanatic. Finally, he reasons, maybe after all the situation is not hopeless. Maybe Sodom will change. Maybe things will be better a little later. Is this really the right time to be making a move? So he hesitates. As these things loom a little too largely in his thinking, like Lot, he “lingers!”
It is hard to make a break. It was hard for Abraham to pick up and leave Ur of the Chaldees with all of the comforts and security that he enjoyed there to go out “not knowing where he went.” It was hard for Saul of Tarsus to leave the comforts, prestige and power of his position as a Jewish Rabbi, launch out in a despised sect, to be persecuted form city to city, to suffer all kinds of indignities and slander, to be deserted by his friends. God said, “Go,” and he went.
Perhaps Lot might have even reasoned, I’ll stick here until they kick me out. If they kick me out, then I’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll stay.” So he stayed on and “vexed his righteous soul,” made his own witness ineffective and ruined his family. A man’s family does not come first, but a man ought to consider what happens to his family if he stays where he is. Lot vexed his soul, but he did nothing about it. Many good men will sit by and say, “I don’t like it but I can live with it. It is not for us to judge. At least we can stay.” It just could be, such men will wake up one day to realize the price they have paid, in their own families and the sheep God has given them to tend, to say nothing of the little lambs coming on, is too great.
FUTURE GENERATIONS AT STAKE
When we say, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it,” and we stay in a church that is blaspheming the name of God and continually mouthing the talk of Satan, we may be doing irreparable damage to our own children, our own congregations and to their children. The great danger is that we get increasingly accustomed to unbelief and sin until it no longer stirs our righteous indignation. Something dead smells and the longer it stays, the worse it smells. But if you stay around it long enough, you can get to the place where you don’t smell it at all. We’ll “deplore.” We’ll “regret.” We’ll say we don’t like it, but still we stick with it. This is what Lot did.
Compare for a moment the situation of Abraham and the situation of Lot. Abraham chose communion with God. Lot chose money, prestige, power, the comforts of civilization and approval. Abraham stayed in fellowship with God. The blessing of God went down from generation to generation to his descendants to bless the whole world. Lot, indeed, “vexed his righteous soul,” but he stayed with Sodom. And in the end, his household was lost in shame and ignominy. Most perished, two girls lived to curse the world with their bastard seed.
Do we not today need to take solemn warning from this tragic example of a good man who lived in the midst of wickedness because it was profitable to him, kidding himself into thinking he was doing some good? He didn’t even change ten souls in Sodom! There is a lot of loose talk about going out into the world and being “one of them.” This needs to be qualified! Lot tried it and lost his family without winning even ten men in Sodom!
Let us beware that in this day when Sodom is all about us, when Sodom is infiltrating the church, when Sodom is even being brought into the church by church leaders, when Sodom has the control of many church leaders, when Sodom has the control of many church organizations and even whole denominations, we dare not make Lot’s mistake of saying, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” Let every minister, every dedicated Christian face in his or her own heart the question, “Why am I where I am? Am I bearing effective witness for Jesus Christ or am I here for some other reason or purpose? Is my Christian witness being muted by my compromise in being where I am?”