In the 13th chapter of Genesis, we meet Abram’s nephew, Lot. Lot has lost his father back in Haran. Abram has sort of adopted the young man, taken him under his wing. The Bible says that Lot also has flocks, herds and tents. Because Abram prospers, so does Lot. Ah, remember? “I will bless those who bless you,” God told Abram.
In fact, they prosper so much that the unoccupied pasturelands of Canaan cannot sustain them all. Arguments break out between the ranch hands of Lot and the ranch hands of Abram.
You can imagine how it went. The biggest arguments in this life erupt over things we cannot take with us, over things which God is going to dynamite someday anyway – personal property, bank accounts, some piece of furniture Aunt Tilly forgot to tag in her will.
The matter did have to be settled. But in what manner and in what spirit? The Bible says: “The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.” The heathen inhabitants of the land who had heard Abram’s sermons, witnessed Abram’s worship – they were watching.
When all is said and done, will this faith of Abram and Lot reach as far as the money in their pocket and the lot lines for their flocks and herds? Will Abram and Lot behave no differently than anyone else when it comes to worldly matters? Or will a different spirit prevail?
The hypocrisy of churchgoers is no alibi for the unbelief of those who reject Christ. Christ will not accept the excuse – “I don’t go to church because there are so many hypocrites in it.” This is no excuse for despising the gospel in word and Sacraments. Besides, when you start thinking you’re so much better than all those hypocrites over at the church – well – now who’s got their nose in the air?
That being said, it needs to haunt us that we invite others to believe in our Redeemer when our own lives seem so little redeemed. Do we really expect folks to take Christ’s gospel seriously when “Christians” are – as bitter, as drunk, as sexually immoral, as foul-mouthed, as greedy, as selfish, as ornery, as uninterested in the Bible, as disrespectful to parents and authority, as insensitive to their spouses, as slanderous – as their unchurched neighbors? At least the unchurched neighbors are honest enough not to use church membership as a cover-up for a Christless life.
Setting aside his own rights, Abram sets the example of Christ’s beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Wisconsinites – they’re all watching. So is Christ. So is Christ.