In this Sunday’s passage from Genesis, we are treated to the negotiation between God and Abraham over the fate of the people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is important, from the point of context, to note that this is not in retaliation for the well-known offenses of the men of those cities attempting to sexually assault the two angelic visitors in Lot’s home, for that event occurs after this particular passage. Rather, there is extensive references to a multitude of sins committed by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, including the oppression of their people.
Negotiating with God may seem like a strange thing for a figure considered so faithful in the Biblical text, and it is easy to get sucked into a theological question about God’s judgement and the affliction of natural disasters upon innocent lives. But I agree with the sentiments of Dr. Nahum Sarna in his book Genesis, that this interchange in intended to reveal not a theological truth about how God judges communities, but rather about how communities themselves exhibit justice.
It’s a “bad news/good news” situation. The bad news is that it is possible that the sinfulness of a community has the potential to overwhelm the influence of a small number of righteous people. The good news is that the “critical mass” of righteous people is surprisingly small (in the case of the cities in Genesis, only ten).
So we are left in our day and age is a cautiously hopeful lesson: to not lapse into apathy and despair when it comes to what seems to be the overwhelming aspects of sinfulness in our communities, but rather to preserve in hope and faithfulness that even small numbers of people can, with God’s blessing, create tremendous outcomes.
Yours in Christ,