“So, now we’re negotiating.” It was a great moment. We had been going back and forth for a while and finally had agreed on a course of action and all that was left to do was determine the details. You see, it had become clear to me that we were not really on the same page about the general vision and direction we wanted the ministry to go and, if we were ever going to get anywhere, we had to settle this issue! After hours of conversation and even argument, we had come to one mind about our direction.
But that’s true of all of life. If a husband and wife don’t see eye to eye on the path for their family, there’s conflict. If corporate leaders can’t agree on a direction and focus for the company, there’s chaos and bankruptcy (Just ask the folks at Yahoo!). If a parish can’t agree on why they exists then the confusion and the multiple agendas either freeze the community into inaction or, worse yet, decline. We have to learn how to come to a clear direction if we’re ever going to have one!
Look at our Lesson today in Genesis 18:20-33:
Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.” So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near, and said, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him, and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Abraham’s relationship with God has developed to the point that God shares with Abraham His plans and His insights. God is going to bring to an end the spiritual sickness of Sodom and Gomorrah and He tells Abraham of this in the visit of the “three Guests” at the Oak of Mamre.
But Abraham has family in that area. His cousin Lot and his family live there! And as a good relative Abraham starts the negotiation with God.
What’s fascinating about this isn’t that God talks and reveals His plan to Abraham, but that Abraham has such a close relationship with God that he feels the freedom to confront God with God’s own identity! “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gutsy call, Abraham! But notice how God reacts. God doesn’t condemn or rebuke Abraham. He listens and responds to Abraham’s intercession for those in the cities who are innocent. God wants to encourage this kind of behavior in Abraham because it creates a love for the other that makes Abraham more like God in the first place!
Today, are you clear as to the direction of your life? It is in growing in your relationship with God that will make you so comfortable in being with God that you can actually learn to know yourself as one who can approach God with your concerns for others as you would your own loving father. That’s the kind of relationship that flows from being Orthodox on Purpose!