An Exegesis on Abraham and Lot: Communities of Virtue

by Isaac Miller

The next morning Abraham hurried to the place where he had stood before the LordAs he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole region of the Plain, he saw smoke over the land rising like the smoke from a furnace.
Genesis 19:27-28

 

A commenter recently suggested fleeing the corruption of the Church as Lot fled from Sodom. This is an interesting take, but I think the analogy isn’t quite on target:

First, let’s rewind a bit. Abram was not told to bring Lot along when he left Haran to go to Canaan. But he did. He was told to leave his “country and kindred” and go to a land he would be shown. Upon returning from a brief period in Egypt, Abram and Lot’s herdsmen fight, so they decide to separate. Lot gets to choose first and chooses based on what he saw with his eyes—the well-watered areas of the plain of Jordan. There is nothing inherently wrong about rightly discerning the land most likely to yield prosperity. But what was Lot’s end? His end was oriented to prosperity and good living; Abraham’s heart was inclined to God.

Afterward, Abram was also told by God that the land he was in would be his and his seed would be as the dust of the earth—note that this only happened after Lot had separated from him. God knew what he was doing. Next, Lot’s presence in Sodom made him vulnerable to capture by the nations, so Lot had to be rescued by Abram, after which Abram expresses his disdain for the King of Sodom and famously encounters Melchizidek.

Some time passes, and Ishmael and Isaac are born. Abraham has the interaction with God where he pleads that if a certain number of righteous people are in the city, he will not destroy it. It is unclear if Abraham knows whether Lot is still there or not.

Notice that Lot returned to Sodom—despite having been captured by the nations and rescued, he returned to Sodom. He had figured out a way to coexist with the evils committed in Sodom. In other words, he did not attempt to change the society or its laws to be more in line with God or to change society’s end to incline itself to God. Many in the modern world are in the same situation. They live quietly without rocking society’s boat. It’s clear from Lot’s actions that he was a good man, overall—he noticed the angels, thinking they were men, and asked them to abide in his house and not in the street (since he knew the danger they would be in)—however, notice that Lot’s family did not receive his righteousness. His wife looked back, defying the commandment of the angels. His daughters got him inebriated to conceive incestuously. His son in laws thought he was joking. They didn’t take him seriously.

He may have been righteous himself, but because of the society he acquiesced to live in, his family paid a price. The Church today isn’t taken seriously because we have acted as Lot and not Abraham. The environment Lot lived in corrupted his family, and the incestuous relationship with his daughters produced Ammon and Moab, enemies of Israel. Lot learned to coexist with the world, and despite his own righteousness, he saved only himself.

Many of those who live as if they were Lot and not Abraham currently populate the Church. Some moan at the evils of Sodom, but many have become accustomed to it or participate in its evils themselves.

Abraham had the covenant relationship with God, as the Catholic Church does. St. Paul writes that “the gospel was preached beforehand in Abraham, saying, ‘In you all nations shall be blessed.’” Yet, Abraham didn’t hide among the world, avoiding political issues, merely saying “everyone should believe in X.” He built a community of security—the servants trained in his house. Individual spirituality is not and has never been the only dispensation of the gospel.

Abraham’s unique position empowered him to save Lot. Afterward, Lot still chose to dwell among the world and by its rules in spite of being saved from it. We are being derelict if we do not recognize that rejecting the social kingship of Christ has consequences.

The Lord Jesus says that the end days will be as the days of Noah and as the days of Lot. In the days of Lot, Abraham dwelt safely away from Sodom. We are called to seek to be part of a holy community, not merely an atomized righteous person in a sea of corruption. Ultimately, we are affected by those we allow to set policy. Our families are affected.

Our high calling is not only to be ready to leave Sodom if necessary, as Lot was forced to do, but to be Abraham, who, if necessary, blazes a trail to be a “Father of many nations.” Abraham was already building and maintaining his land. Integralism is not a fanciful idea that would be nice if it were possible. It is our high calling, and souls hang in the balance of the safeguards and communities we create.