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From there the men turned and went on toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing in front of the Lord. 23 Abraham came closer and asked, “Are you really going to sweep away the innocent with the guilty? 24 What if there are 50 innocent people in the city? Are you really going to sweep them away? Won’t you spare that place for the sake of the 50 innocent people who are in it? 25 It would be unthinkable for you to do such a thing, to treat the innocent and the guilty alike and to kill the innocent with the guilty. That would be unthinkable! Won’t the judge of the whole earth do what is fair?”
26 The Lord said, “If I find 50 innocent people inside the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Abraham asked, “Consider now, if I may be so bold as to ask you, although I’m ⌞only⌟ dust and ashes, 28 what if there are 45 innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of 5 fewer people?”
The Lord answered, “I will not destroy it if I find 45 there.”
29 Abraham asked him again, “What if 40 are found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of the 40 I will not do it.”
30 “Please don’t be angry if I speak again,” Abraham said. “What if 30 are found there?”
He answered, “If I find 30 there, I will not do it.”
31 “Look now, if I may be so bold as to ask you,” Abraham said. “What if 20 are found there?”
He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 20.”
32 “Please don’t be angry if I speak only one more time,” Abraham said. “What if 10 are found there?”
He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 10.” 33 When the Lordfinished speaking to Abraham, he left. Abraham returned home. – Genesis 18:22-33
In a recent email exchange a colleague urged a disgruntled person to be salt and light in the situation the man was complaining about. In other words, be part of the solution, not just one who calls attention to the problem. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is credited with writing that “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says. “You are the light of the world.” Salt is meant to be used. Light is meant to be shed. They have a positive impact on life. They bring spice and reveal truth.
And while I’ve cut way back on using salt, it does accomplish three things. I creates thirst. It adds flavor. And it preserves. It may not be the best preservative, but it is one of two images Jesus used in speaking about his followers.
Abraham is laying out a case before God that Sodom and Gomorrah is redeemable if there are but 10 righteous people there. They would surely preserve that community. They would bring light into darkness. They would make things better.
But if there are not even 10, what can you do?
There was a time when the people of God were so decimated, dispirited, and discouraged that Elijah came to the conclusion: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). God reminded him, “There are 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Jesus encouraged his followers: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We can have a positive impact in the world. We can enlighten people about the reign and rule of God. And in the process, perhaps we can prevent the catastrophic consequences of sin from having free reign and destroying our communities and us.
There are times we need to stand in the gap for loved ones and difficult situations. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and others have done this. Maybe you have too. Thanks be to God for Jesus who stood in the gap for us, and by whom we are saved, preserved, and enlightened. As his followers we must do all we can to be salt and light in a world that is rapidly decaying, and in the grip of darkness.