Without question, God was sovereign over the destruction of Sodom and it all fit well within His plan. But could there have been a different fate for the city?
In Genesis 18:22ff, Abraham asks that very question about Sodom. “Lord,” he says, “If there were 50 righteous people in the city, would you destroy it then?”
God answers that if there were 50 righteous people in the city, He would not destroy it. Abraham goes further, asking how God would act if there were 45 righteous people in the city. Again, God answers that He would spare the city on behalf of 45 righteous ones. Abraham continues to ask, and God continues to affirm that the presence of righteous people is grounds to delay judgment. What if there were 40 righteous people? 30 righteous people? 20? 10?
Again and again, God makes it clear that the sanctifying presence of His people in a sinful land is enough to preserve that land.
From the beginning, God’s chosen people were intended to be a light to the world, a blessed people through whom the whole world would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). Jesus affirmed this to His followers, reminding them of their identity as salt and light in a dark and dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). God’s people are to be dispersed throughout the world, preserving the earth and shining as a beacon of hope in the Name of the King.
Imagine if the children of Israel had taken this calling seriously from the beginning. What if the city of Sodom had righteous families scattered throughout the municipality? What if every block had an ambassador for the king? What would happen? Well, we know from Genesis 18 that God would have preserved the city on behalf of those who represented Him.
Our goal is to build the New Sodom. You see, I could easily move into Springfield with 7-8 other committed disciples, and we might do some good in the city. But in the end, it would still just be a bunch of “outsiders” who came in and crashed the neighborhood. Because this project will not be the end-all of ministry work, it must signify a beginning. What if there was one committed group of disciples in the city? What if there were 2? How about 3? 4?
Springfield is undoubtedly a city of great need. Greater still are the plans God has for His people there. I could stand up and say this every day from now until the Day of the Lord, but unless the world sees it demonstrated in a tangible way, the message will make little sense. Our doctrine only makes sense in light of the lives we lead.