After studying the story of Lot last week, I have come to face an ugly truth: I’m not as good at forgiving as I thought.
Here’s what bothers me about Lot: He spends several chapters in Genesis edging closer and closer to a sinful lifestyle until at last we find him sitting at the gate of Sodom as a city leader. He is the epitome of recklessness, gambling on living shoulder to shoulder with depraved people, seemingly thoughtless as to the consequences for himself and his family. He calls Sodom’s mob “brothers”, offering his virgin daughters up to them to be gang-raped. He has to be dragged out of the city before it is consumed. His wife dies because she is too entangled in the lifestyle Lot provided for her. He wheedles and begs God’s messengers. His story ends in a cave where his daughters reveal the toll of having been raised in Sodom by committing incest with him.
He’s a dirtbag. But if 2 Peter is to be believed, he’s a dirtbag who was positionally righteous before God. Saved. Redeemed. Which means I’ll be spending an eternity with him in heaven. That makes me crazy. Not the saved part - I’m okay with Lot getting into heaven - I understand that God gives all of us unmerited grace. I just don’t want to have to see Lot, hang out with Lot, befriend Lot. He is someone who had saving faith, yet continued to live a life that harmed himself and others in the extreme. He can come to heaven, but I don’t want to be around him.
I tell myself that I’m pretty good at forgiving other believers who offend me. Most people, by the time they hit adulthood, have at least a short list of people who have hurt them deeply. I am no exception. I have prayed over my list repeatedly, asking God to kill any bitterness that might begin or recur. I have asked Him to give me the heart of Christ, who taught even as he died that those who harm us do not know what they are doing. I don’t dwell on past hurts. But my reaction to Lot, whose offenses were not committed against me, has forced me to examine my feelings toward other Christians, whose offenses were.
My attitude to the Lots on my list has been “I forgive you. I just don’t want to be around you.” Out of sight, out of mind, off the list. Living in big cities and attending big churches has made this a formula that has not been hard to follow. But it is a coward’s forgiveness that I have offered my fellow believers. The reality is that one day I will stand shoulder to shoulder in heaven with them, praising the same God for the same grace. If I cringe at the thought of having to see my offenders there, I have not forgiven completely. And I have downplayed to myself my own need for forgiveness from God and others. I am someone’s Lot as well – who dreads having to meet me in heaven?
Our Lord looks eagerly to the day that His offenders will join Him for eternity. He does not cringe at the thought. He has set aside His wrath toward us. Completely. I pray that I would forgive as I have been forgiven – freely and to the uttermost. That I would not wait until heaven to turn loose the last of my hurt, to seek fellowship with my Lots. And that one day I would joyfully and willingly sing with my offenders, with Lot, and with those whom I have offended:
Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!