Does Sodom Live in our Souls?

June 22, 2016

by Kent Hughes

If we had only the story of Lot’s life as it is told in the book of Genesis, we would never have imagined that Lot was a true believer. But Second Peter 2 tells us three times that this conflicted, compromised man was “righteous”—and more, that he was “distressed” and tormented by life in Sodom. Peter’s carefully crafted description of Lot is this: “. . . righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard) . . .” (vv. 7–8). Ironically, though Lot was revolted by Sodom, Sodom was in his soul. It is possible, then, for a believer to be distressed by the world while willfully clinging to the world.

There is every evidence that righteous Lot was of no benefit whatsoever to the inhabitants of Sodom. Though he lived in Sodom for years and was prominent in its gates, and therefore would have had many opportunities to influence his friends, Lot utterly disappointed. When judgment fell on Sodom, not one righteous person could be found outside his family. No acquaintances, no neighbors, not one of his servants had come to know the Lord. His plea with the Sodomites in front of his door was dismissed by them out of hand. Lot lacked gravitas; his words carried no weight.

Even more tragically, Lot’s life did nothing to point his family and relatives to heaven. None of his family or friends feared God. When he urged his then future sons-in-law to flee the cities’ destruction, they thought he was “jesting.” Lot’s words had no substance because he was so insubstantial. Additionally, Lot’s lifestyle had done nothing to loosen the culture’s grip on his wife. She left her heart in Sodom and therefore couldn’t resist turning around—to her destruction. The very woman who bore his children, who was on most intimate terms with him, who knew the contours of his soul, saw nothing in him or in his faith to point her from earth to heaven.

It is also evident that Lot’s life choices had promoted his daughters’ absorbing of the spirit of Sodom into their souls. Deception, of course, was a way of life in Sodom. And Lot was part of it. But his deception was spiritually charged and therefore domestically lethal. Inwardly he was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked” and “was tormenting his righteous soul,” says Peter; but outwardly he said little or nothing because he had become a prominent man in town. Forthrightness, anything approaching a witness, would have jeopardized his standing. Lot had mastered the craft of turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the social and sexual abuses of Sodom. He didn’t practice them. He didn’t approve of them. He loathed them. But he didn’t speak out against them. Blasphemies and filthy speech were met by Lot’s easy politic smile and careful deflection.

His daughters saw his accommodating character that so deftly masked what he really thought. Lot the survivor was a master. His girls could not forget that he had offered them to appease the inflamed men of Sodom in his infamous betrayal of fatherly duty. So when the successive father-daughter seductions took place, his girls used the craft he had bequeathed to them. It was his wine, his deceit, his betrayal mixed together and served in a dark cup in the depths of the cave. His daughters’ dishonor of him was brilliant, because with cruel irony he himself carried out the shameful act he had first suggested to the men of Sodom. Lot had effectively sown Sodom into his daughters’ souls.

Lot’s folly was this: Though the worldliness of Sodom vexed his righteous soul, he lived as close to the world as he could, hanging on to it for dear life until the bitter end. And the result was that though God judged all of Sodom except Lot and his daughters, Sodom was reborn in their very lives. We see, then, that it is possible for believing people like us who are truly distressed by the course of this world to live lives that are so profoundly influenced by culture that Sodom is reborn in the lives of those we love the most.

This piece is adapted from R. Kent Hughes, Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 13–15. Used with permission of the publisher.

Kent Hughes

Dr. Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of practical theology at WTS.

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