“How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave is their sin. I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know,” so saith the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 18. The outcry must have been great, 24/7 on cable channels and in daily newspapers around the world. Sodom and Gomorrah must have been very depraved.
Licentiousness, injustice, violence, evil-doers are thriving, yet Abraham pleads for them. “Suppose there are 50 righteous men within the city; will you then sweep away the place?” The Lord replies, “If I can find at Sodom 50 righteous men in the city, then I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 50 righteous men; therein lies the conundrum.
A boy scout of a man runs for elective office; his text messages reveal an inner life hidden from the public persona we see. His opponent has gall; who knows what skeletons may inhabit his own past? A purportedly righteous man is president of a Christian college. Then, whoa! He gets caught with his pants down. Literally. Another man who, if we are honest, mocks, bullies, lies, sleeps around, pays porn stars off. And what do you know, he is the president. Complicity with what is obviously wrongdoing is a plague unto itself; and 214,000 plus people have met a swifter death than they needed to because there have not been 50 righteous men to impact outcomes. We wait for shoes to fall in a world of millipedes and the shoes drop by the dozens.
Sodom and Gomorrah fall. They might blame it on God, but it appears, the people of the city have such blindness to their sin, they collapse on their own hubris. The writer of Genesis says the people are so blind, they cannot find the way to the door that will let them out of the coming destruction. The account of the fallen city bears a message for us today. Are our eyes open enough to see what is going on; are our ears open enough to hear the message?
Righteousness is not the same as goodness; not the same as niceness. Righteousness means right relationship – with God, with our fellow humans, all with whom we share the planet, with all creation that includes the animals and the natural order. Can we be counted among the 50 who are righteous? Can we even ask ourselves, and give honest answers, without being defensive and self-protective. Will we find a way to confession and compassion? Or will we turn to pillars of salt and melt into the coming storms?