Practical Application of the Word of God
“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
“and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—”
II Peter 2:7-8
There are some scriptures and people described in the Bible that always give me pause each time I study them and I find myself going back and rolling them around in my mind in analysis and in an attempt to understand them.
On one hand, I have hindsight access to the summary of the lives of the people discussed in scripture, and from that summary, for some of those people, their ends look less promising than their beginnings.
Hezekiah is an example that immediately springs to my mind. From my viewpoint, had he died when God told him he was going to, his spiritual record would be as unvarnished as any human’s could be.
He was borrowing trouble by asking for extra time to live and, in fact when God gave it to him, that’s what he brought on himself and his descendents. The attitude of Hezekiah toward his descendents doesn’t exactly sound like the attitude of a godly and just man to me.
On the other hand, although I’ve heard many times that Solomon had his chance at salvation and gave it up, I can’t find anything scripturally (after his life was over) to back that up. He could have easily repented before his death. We simply don’t know.
Some of the names among the “great cloud of witnesses” listed in the faith chapter always surprise me. Gideon, who it appears fell into idolatry after God delivered Israel from Midian. Sampson, who wandered and rambled, it seems, as far away from God as he could most of his life.
I think the lesson from this for me is that when I am evaluating another person from my human perspective, with limited access to all the facts and no access to the heart, I need to be cautious about drawing conclusions that are not mine to make.
It is a human tendency to want to label, box, and close up other people in a neat little package that we’ve designed for them. It enables us to accept or dismiss them and go on with our lives and never give them another thought.
This, by the way, is not the way God and Christ deal with humanity, and it’s something those of us who claim to be following Them need to be aware of and changing about ourselves and how we consider our brothers and sisters in the faith and in humanity.
I know that we, by and large, don’t do this and that’s to our discredit and shame.
No doubt you’ve been on the receiving end of this. I have too. Just recently, I became aware of someone in the faith reading something I had written – and clearly the person did not really read it or understand it – and then going to a minister and telling the minister that he needed to do something about me because I had “issues” that needed to be dealt with.
Fortunately, the minister knows me and told this individual that the issues the individual thought they saw were not issues.
It seems to me that we spend a lot of our time on this planet looking at appearances, looking for faults and flaws in others, and jumping to conclusions – mostly negative – and then finding someone to gossip to or tattletale to about them.
I personally believe that Matthew 18:15-17 will never be the prevailing way that Christians deal with their brothers and sisters in the faith until Christ returns. This is because Satan’s influence as an accuser of the brethren combined with human nature, which aches to tear someone else down to build ourselves up, prevails in the flesh.
And people get hurt by it. Deeply. I was crushed when I heard this incident about myself because I knew it wasn’t true. I knew the person had not really read or understood the particular post that sent them running to a minister to claim that I had issues and needed to be dealt with.
And this adds to our discredit and shame because sometimes all the facts of a matter are there, but we either don’t bother to take the time to get them, or we willfully choose to ignore them, or we simply miss them because we’re are so consumed with rushing into condemnation that we forget that we are not judge and jury on anyone – including ourselves – and when we take those roles on ourselves we are practicing idolatry because we are putting ourselves in the place of God and Jesus Christ.
This does not mean that we don’t test and look for the fruit of God’s spirit, which is what evaluation and discernment consists of, but it does mean that we don’t have power or the right to sentence anyone to an eternal fate.
I want that last sentence to sink in. If you take nothing else from this post, I hope you take this and remember it and apply it in your life.
Having given you that introduction, let’s look at the story of two righteous men. Abraham and Lot. I must confess that every time I read II Peter 2:7-8, one of those sections of scripture that gives me pause, I stop and mentally shake my head. Righteous Lot? Really?
I recently did a comparison chart from Genesis on Abraham and Lot:
Looking at this comparison, it’s easy to see Abraham’s righteousness and difficult to see Lot’s righteousness. And, yet, God’s inspired word says that Lot was righteous.
This seeming paradox between the evidence and what God inspired to be said about Lot stayed on my mind quite a bit this time around and as I thought about it and meditated about it, an explanation occurred to me about why Lot is called righteous.
This is my speculation and opinion, so take it for what it may or may not be worth. But if it’s accurate, it should make us deeply consider ourselves in light of it.
It is entirely possible that Lot was righteous in comparison with the inhabitants of Sodom, although it’s clear that he was affected – negatively – by and had absorbed some of the culture and thinking and way of life in Sodom.
What are the implications of this possibility for us – you and me? Are we merely righteous in comparison to our modern culture, thinking, and way of life? How much of it has affected us? How much have we absorbed?
This, it seems to me, should be the inevitable result of studying God’s word. Analyzing it, thinking about it, and then asking “what am I supposed to take away from this and how does it apply to me?”
Having considered why Lot may have been called righteous has led me to examine my own life, my thinking, my way of being to see if I am more like Abraham, who separated himself from the evil cultures around him, or if I am more like Lot, who tormented his righteous soul from day to day from seeing and hearing Sodom’s lawless deeds.
My hope with this post is to spur you to think about righteousness more deeply, as I am learning to, and to look at God’s word through the living and personal lens of application.
Merely reading God’s word is of little value unless we take what is there, understand what it means, and then put it into use for change in our own lives.
That is the heart of concretized Christianity.