Have you ever heard a sermon about Lot pitching his tent towards Sodom? Maybe, like me, you’ve heard people read quite a lot into that story. “Before long he was living in Sodom,” they say, “and look what happened to him and his family…”
A few questions have always niggled me about this approach. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1Cor 15:53) obviously still applies, but a logical application from this kind of message would also be to avoid living in immoral cities, since it might rub off on you, not to speak of the influence on your children. The problem with all this? It’s just not at all the instruction given to New Testament believers.
Location location location
(you need to know where you are)
Instead of telling them to escape to the hills, when Paul writes to the Corinthians, virtually the first thing he does is tell them about the amazing place that they are in, and call on them to live out their location!
Amazing place??? Corinth? Hang on – let me explain… Sure enough Corinth was a hell-hole. What can be seen on the screen today was out on the streets in Corinth. To make the link with Lot, they lived in a kind of 1st Century Sodom… but Paul wasn’t going to spend his time talking to them about that location!
What mattered to Paul was not so much where they lived, but the position that God had put them in, in Christ. They had been sanctified in Christ Jesus!
Now “Sanctified” – is a passive verb in the Greek, in the perfect tense. A literal translation could read, “having been sanctified” which raises a question or two if you think about it!
You don’t have to read far in 1 Corinthians to realise that these Christians had not been made thoroughly holy… so what does this mean that they had been sanctified? Actually, this word is speaking more about their position than their practical level of holiness.
Just as in the Old Testament, pots and pans could be set aside to be used only for the Lord… so believers when they are saved, are set aside, moved into a new collection of people, a new category – holy to the Lord – dedicated to his own purpose and use. More than that, Christians have also been cleansed from their sin once-and-for-all, made holy in the Lord’s eyes by Christ’s sacrifice: “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” (Heb 10:10).
Don’t get out – work out instead
Now all that remained was for them also realise that they were called to live out their position in Christ… they had been called to be saints.
The good news is, that if you are in Christ, you might be living in Sodom, but in God’s eyes, you have been set apart to be holy for Him. You are now in Christ Jesus – washed clean by His blood, and made part of His body. That also means that God now has a special purpose for you. His purpose is that, as part of a church, you are called to live a holy life… and as you do so, to shine light into that terribly dark place.
It’s a scary thought to go back in time and think about what would have happened if Christians had fled Corinth, and Rome once they were converted. In those early days, as soon as the church was established, Paul seemed to rely on the saints in these bustling, immoral, worldly centres of the world to evangelise their area. He didn’t tell them all to flee the city, but to flee the sin in their own lives, and live in a way that would shine the light of the gospel throughout the regions they had such an influence on.
Life in Sodom can be scary for saints… but don’t run, you’re needed.