On Sunday my church considered Genesis 18:16-19:38, the story of the destruction of the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A key character in the story is Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who decided to go down into the fertile valley of the cities. Apparently, Lot found himself in the midst of a horrendously wicked group of people and his reaction to that situation in the unfolding of this passage of Scripture tells us a great deal about how Christians ought to interact with the culture surrounding them – namely that one must either actively confront the culture or retreat, passivity is not a good strategy.

When the two angels of the Lord in human form come to Lot, we find him mingling amongst the people of the city. He graciously takes in the two men, but soon the whole of the men of  the city, both young and old, are banging at the door clamoring to rape the new guys. Lot steps outside his home in the middle of the city in an attempt to calm the crowd and calls them “brothers” or “friends” showing that he was intimately involved in the community.

He fails to appease the racous mob, even after going so far as to offer his two virgin daughters and let them do whatever they want with them. An offer like this leads us to believe that Lot had adopted Sodom and Gomorrah’s twisted sense of sexuality instead of standing against it. The angels then step up, blind the mob, and offer Lot and his family a chance to escape the impending destruction of the city. Lot cannot convince his sons-in-law, who think he’s joking. He, in fact, almost backs out until the angels of the Lord literally pull him, his wife, and his two unwed daughters out of the city.

Two indications from Lot’s family then occur which lead us to believe that they had been absorbed by the culture. First, Lot’s wife, probably a Sodomite (in the literal sense), looks longingly back at the city as they flee. For this, God turns her into a pile of salt. We see that despite the wickedness of that place, she nevertheless desired to be there. Later, Lot’s daughters reveal that they have been consumed by their cultures perverted view of sexuality. They think that they’ll never get husbands and have children so they get Lot drunk and sleep with him on consecutive nights. (Talk about an R-rated Bible story!) Their offspring begin the races of the Ammonites and Moabites, both of whom prove to be a thorn in the flesh for Abraham’s decendents.

So from this twisted story we see the consequences Lot suffered for neither actively engaging the culture, nor from fleeing and going back to Abraham. The message is very true for many Christians in the West who live in societies becoming increasingly debauched. I fear many evangelicals are passively watching the sinfulness of our culture increase, perhaps even shaking a finger at it, but are not confronting it. They are content to watch Friends or Seinfield or Will and Grace because they are clever, well-made and funny as heck, laughing and joking their way to living their lives just like everyone else.

I think retreat is not the way to go. Even if you flee to the hills to avoid the wicked cities, the cities will eventually reach you and almost certainly will reach your children because of their curiosity. Since retreat and passivity aren’t good options, we’ve got to fight. Where Christianity has had the most success it has stood against immorality, but at the same time has offered a better way to live life. It has presented the adventure and excitement of a life with Christ, being caught up into the divine life of the Trinity. It has offered human beings an opportunity to become fully human. Evangelicals seem to understand the mechanics of salvation and sanctification fairly well, but often leave off the simpler reason that we should avoid sin: it’s bad for us. As Lewis writes, “We fool about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us.” This message is the one we need to actively confront our culture with – either that or we will be consumed.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree. The church of America needs to wake up, and address the problem of sin in our society. Jesus certainly did not activate passiveness. In fact, he said that, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” (Mark 9:43) We as a church need to cut off every hint of sin. Good thoughts, and God bless you!


  2. Brother Andrew,

    I am always struck by the similarities of this story to the one in Judges Chapter 19-21, when the Levite from Judah comes to Gibeah and is taken in by an Ephraimite living as a tenet in the city, which is in the territory of Benjamin. The events that unfolded there almost resulted in the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Notice that Lot also insisted that the angels, whom he at first addresses as lords, come and stay in his house and not out on the street. Seems to be quite customary among the righteous ones of those days to do so.

    I am also reminded of the story of the flood when angels left their place and had relations with the daughters of the sons of men, and so played a part in the destruction of that age, which the men of Sodom seemed to have ignored and forgotten when Lot resided in their city previous to its’ destruction.

    When looking at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah it is sometimes to easy to focus too narrowly on its’ sins in the Genesis account without taking into consideration what had led God to determine it was needing to be destroyed prior to the angels encounter with Abraham and subsequently Lot and his family. This is enumerated in; Eze 16:49,50 Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and her daughters. Also, she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Also, they were haughty and did abomination before My face, so I turned them away as I saw fit.

    Not to critize but to clarify, Lots daughters were married; Gen 19:12 And the men said to Lot, Who still is here to you? Bring out of this place your sons and your sons-in-law and your daughters, and whoever belongs to you in the city., and so to claim they were virgins is to conjecture on your part. See Gen 19:14 also.

    And finally as for Lot’s wife there is no mention of her being a native of Sodom, nor of her being a sodomite in the literal sense either, so it may be best not to bear a witness to that assumption either.

    Finally I suppose, there is no indication of why Lot’s wife looked back, so where the Scripture is silent, again I urge caution. One may speculate, of course, but I think one runs a risk of becoming too dogmatic about those speculations, which can lead to unintended consequences. I am reminded of the Christ’s admonition that no one is suited for the Kingdom of God if he looks back after having put his hand to the plow. Anyone who has ever cut a furrow understands that, and so Lot being wealthy I assumed his wife was looking back on all she had left behind.

    I am not quite sure myself how to actively engage the culture of decline in the West, especially when it gets exposed to believer and non-believers as existing in the Church. I think if we Christians would stand back and take the whole body of the teachings of Christ in and realize that we are in for penny in for a pound that we can make some sort of beginnings within our ownselves. The first obligation is to keep oneself without spot from the world, the second I think is to keep the Church without spot. As the brother noted, it is better to enter the Kindom of God with one hand than enter into Gehenna with both, but we must bear in mind that parable refers to our own hand, and not the hands of others.

    Anyway, may you have the peace of God, just as you show it.


  3. When Jesus came to earth were people any less evil than they are now? My opinion is that most people then were as you describe most people now. And then there were the teachers of the law who wanted to “confront culture” by insisting on the distinctions of right and wrong.

    Even though Jesus was committed to righteous living, he seemed to prefer the company of these “evil people”. Didn’t he spend a lot of time at their parties? Didn’t he say the prosititutes and tax collectors were going to enter heaven ahead of the teachers of the law? When people asked him to judge, didn’t he ask, “Who appointed me a judge?”

    Yes, those shows Seinfeld and Friends have a lot of evil things on them, but I always prefer watching them over the crime dramas and talk shows (and Dickens!) where they lead out a villian and say, “Wow! We’re so much better than they are!” Woe to them! Everything they say and do is done for men to see. They tie up heavy loads for men to carry, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to help.

    I’m not saying the righteous requirements God intended for us to follow should be ignored … but they can be suspended (and should be suspended) in the name of love.

    Please don’t take this comment as a criticism of your post. It’s really a criticism of the smug way I think when I say things like this.


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