For The Sake of Ten
Topic: Prayer Passage: Genesis 18:16–33
For the Sake of Ten
If you are visiting us this morning, we are in a series in Genesis. But this morning I want to do something a little different. Because it is the 4th of July I want us to turn our attention to our nation, giving thanks to God for the great nation we live in, and praying that God would bring revival to our nation.
So I want to superimpose Abraham’s example of interceding for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with the Christian’s call and duty to pray for our nation and our leaders.
What kind of citizen should a Christian be? How should a Christian view politics and our government? What should the involvement of a Christian with politics be? Is there a particular political party that Christians should be affiliated with? Should Christians (and the church) avoid politics altogether? These are difficult questions and important ones and I don’t think there is necessarily a one size fits all answer, but I want to share four biblical principles that apply to all Christians and do help guide Christians to a biblical worldview and a biblical perspective of how we can best impact the world and our nation and best influence our country toward true righteousness.
I. Christians should thank God for the great nation we live in
Let’s face it – it’s popular to beat up on America these days. I came across a blog written about a year ago that claimed that America has become a modern Sodom and Gomorrah, except that S&G were not as bad as we become. Along those lines I’ve heard people say that if God doesn’t judge America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. I understand what they mean, and the truth is that every nation will eventually face God’s judgment for what they did or didn’t do with the light He gave them, but I am not comfortable with that saying. First of all, that saying seems to put the person speaking on a superior plane from which he/she can accurately judge what God must or must not do if He is to maintain His righteous justice. God’s judgment is perfect and He won’t need to apologize to anyone for His righteous judgment.
Second, I don’t know where America is at in terms of its position in judgment by God but I am not convinced that the USA has descended to the depths of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now I’m not minimizing the rapid creep of depravity and godlessness that our nation is facing. I think that America is not a Judeo-Christian nation any longer but a post-Judeo-Christian nation. However, when we think of Sodom and Gomorrah we think of its great sexual sin and depravity and for good reason, but the evil of S&G went further and deeper than that. The Lord tells Abraham that the outcry against Sodom has risen to God’s ears – that phrase is used when people are being oppressed and victimized brutally. They were a sexually depraved city, but they also oppressed the poor and helpless. People were violently brutalized. Law and justice was being trampled on.
It was so bad that a large portion of the city came out to sexually accost the two angels just because they were new faces. Abraham negotiates God’s refraining judgment if just ten righteous people can be found. They can’t be. There aren’t ten in the city. That’s not where America is at this time. You can walk through most cities without fearing for your life. If criminally wronged, there are laws that will afford you a fair trial by a jury of peers. There are still a lot of people who love the Lord, churches that preach the gospel and serve their communities, charities that offer benevolence, just regular people who show compassion, courage, and kindness on a daily basis. Not perfect, but better than anywhere in the world.
I realize there is a lot of sin in our nation and I have no doubt that God will one day bring judgment to this nation, but it is a great nation – the greatest nation on earth – and we should give thanks to God for the blessings and freedom that we take for granted everyday. We are free to preach the gospel, we are free to meet and sing praise to God openly. We are free to meet in a public school with a sign out on the front lawn advertising that we are here.
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul instructs Timothy that Christians should, among other kinds of prayer, should offer prayers of thanksgiving for kings and people in high places. If that was true then, it is certainly true for this great nation we live in. So on this fourth of July I think it is appropriate that Christians around the country give thanks to God that we live in the USA.
II. Christians should do righteousness and justice
The Lord decides to open His counsel to Abraham because Abraham will become a great nation, and God had set him apart and commanded him to instruct his children to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.
God has called us as Christians to stand for godliness by doing righteousness and justice. We are to love the right and the truth and justice. That certainly can involve being involved in politics. We live in a country that has a government representative of the people, and it’s wrong to disattach ourselves from the privileges we have to vote and be involved. But our stand should avoid partisan politics, as if one party has all the right answers. There is corruption on both sides of the aisle and in between the aisle too. And there are some good thoughts and good intentions on both sides as well. John Piper says it well :
I'm not thinking there should be another party, just truth. It seems that the Christian church should not--as a church--join partisan politics. Rather, we should be speaking prophetically to issues that relate to what Christ's will is. Then we should just let the chips fall as they may. If it sounds Republican or Democratic or Independent, so be it.
Gather the issues together and meditate on them. Weigh them in the balances of the Bible. And then speak prophetically about them…Ultimately we want to communicate--even while engaging in politics--that politics are not the main issue on this earth. Knowing the Creator is the main issue, as well as being reconciled with him and glorifying him in all that we believe and say and do. That's what the church needs to constantly be calling people to. ~ John Piper
It is the gospel that gives us hope – not politics. And the gospel calls us to love the truth, and love justice, and to do right. No matter the cost. As Piper says, let the chips fall wherever they may.
Some issues are more given to moral and biblical scrutiny than others. How you feel about the economic policies of an administration or a candidate is important but there is more room for debate and differences on that issue than an issue like abortion. Abortion is not a political issue in my mind – it is a moral and spiritual issue. If abortion is the killing of the unborn, than it is an issue of justice and righteousness and no fancy footwork or semantics can ever change that in God’s sight. There are Republicans that are pro-abortion, and Democrats that are pro-life. It’s not a partisan issue – it’s a justice issue. There are no single issues that qualify a man/woman for office, but there are many single issues that can disqualify a person from holding office. If a man believes it’s acceptable to take bribes, that single issue disqualifies them from office. If a politician thinks that certain ethnic groups aren’t entitled to equal rights – disqualifies. If a man thinks its okay to abuse women – disqualifies. Abortion is such a single issue that in my opinion disqualifies a man/woman because it has to do with righteousness and justice. Christians need to stand for because God calls us to stand for righteousness and justice – and let the chips fall where they may. That’s a part of the prophetic voice that Christians need to have in society.
And there are many such issues of righteousness and justice – we should stand against oppression and injustice in any form it takes, whether against the poor, against a particular race, against a particular religion. We should do so respectfully, civilly, compassionately, and with Christian love, but still we need to stand for righteousness and justice.
III. Christians should pray for our nation and our leaders respectfully
God tells Abraham about the great evil that Sodom and Gomorrah is guilty of, and reveals that He is going to confirm the cry that has risen against the city – and if so, judgment will come. Abraham’s response is one of compassion and love for the people of the city. And he intercedes for the righteous by appealing to the righteousness of God. Will He wipe out the righteous with the guilty? What if there are 50? 45? It’s almost funny how every time Abraham gets a concession from God he presses for more. What about 30? 20? 10?
When it comes to politics we can hide a lot behind “righteous indignation”. I am a politically wired guy when it comes to being informed and discussing politics. I enjoy it and it often drives me crazy at the same time. But the question is, do we share Abraham’s intercessory concern for people and nations and leaders or do we just complain and deride? Are we disrespectful toward leaders we don’t agree with?
I believe we have a responsibility (and the privilege) to voice differences with elected leaders. Part of what makes America great is that we can voice our views fearlessly without reprisal. Christians, don’t stifle debate or discussion of differences – it’s healthy. The nation was founded on men and women courageous to risk everything for what they believed was right. We gain nothing by hiding our heads in the sand when it comes to the issues facing our nation – policies make a difference in many important ways. It was harder to be a Christian and witness the gospel in France during the Reign of Terror than in America during its fight for independence.
But do it respectfully and pray for our country and our leaders. Our leaders carry a big weight on their shoulders and it’s never easy to lead well or govern well. Paul instructs Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:1-4
Do we pray for our nation and our leaders? Do we intercede with the heart of Abraham? The goal of our prayers isn’t that we have peaceful lives but that the gospel can spread and prosper in the best possible conditions! Good Christians make good citizens. We can’t be silent when justice and righteousness are at stake and at those times our stand may be troublesome to those in power, but we are never to be troublemakers. We should pray and intercede for our leaders.
IV. Preach the gospel, not politics, as the great need of our nation
If you’ve been attending Grace Community Church for any length you probably noticed that we don’t discuss politics often from the pulpit. I enjoy politics, try to keep fairly well read on the issues, have pretty strong opinions on the subject, and sometimes even listen to talk radio. So why doesn’t it bleed into the pulpit? Because the pulpit is for a higher calling – to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as the great solution to our problems both political and spiritual. Great need of humanity is for the Savior.
Politics and policies are needed, and sometimes good policies can help slow the moral decline of a nation and promote justice. But laws and policies can only govern behavior, it can’t change the heart. The gospel works to change hearts which then results in lasting change in a culture and nation. The church proclaims the cross of Christ as the answer for the nation, not the voting booth. It is a tragedy when the cross is obscured by politics.
ILL: there is a church in San Francisco called the Glide Memorial Methodist Church – one of the more liberal churches in the Methodist denomination. In 1967 the pastor ordered the cross removed from the sanctuary, telling the congregation to celebrate life and living. The cross has been missing from Glide’s message and ministry ever since.
In Wichita, Kansas, there is a Baptist church that until recently was led by a pastor famous for his politically charge messages. For nearly 3 decades he railed in the pulpit, on the radio, and on cable TV against the political ills of the nation. He proudly announced his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging fellow pastors to make the same “confession” and calling them “sissies” if they didn’t. “We are the religious right,” he liked to say. “One, we are religious. Two, we are right.”
Last year this pastor was pressed to resign from his pastorate by the board of deacons because, as they said, his activism was getting in the way of the gospel.
My point is that if we aren’t careful, the cross can be displaced from the church by conservatism as much as by liberalism. We aren’t to be angry conservatives or idealistic liberals – we are to be loving, praying, godly, Christ-exalting Christians. When people see our lives, may they see the light of Christ shining through us, not a particular political leaning.
It’s fine to identify with a political stance. It’s healthy to be engaged in our political and national debate. It’s important to be involved with our community and civil rights available. But it’s our great priority to lift the cross, and Christ, and the word of God, high through our lives and witness.
In the end, Sodom and Gomorrah just experienced hell a little early. Hell is pictured as a lake of fire, a flaming sulphuric existence that expresses the judgment and condemnation of a righteous and holy God. And the Bible warns us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory (and standard) of God – which means we all deserve God’s judgment. We all – every nation and every individual – deserve Sodom and Gomorrah’s fate.
Abraham’s intercession for S&G revealed his belief that God was merciful. And God’s response showed that Abraham knew Him well. God was merciful. And God still is merciful and has provided a way to escape judgment through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith in Christ every person can be forgiven, cleansed of sin, adopted by God as a son or daughter, and given a new heart that beats to love and glorify God. That is the only hope for all people and that is the message the church, and every Christian must proclaim and stand for.
So on this fourth of July we thank God for our country, we pray for our country, and we want to renew our commitment to have our lives witness the reality of the gospel wherever we go. Amen.