Yesterday morning I had the honor of teaching the teenage girls at our congregation. We are in a study on topics that are pertinent to teenagers: gossip, modesty, entertainment choices, how we use our tongues, friendship, dating, and a host of other things. Friendship was our topic of choice yesterday, and we talked a lot about our responsibility to our friends, the purpose of friendships, and why it's important to have Christian friends. While studying for the lesson, and while listening to the girls' comments in class, I was re-awakened to something that I think is so valuable for all of us: the topic of worldliness.
When you think of the story of Sodom and Gommorah, you probably think of a couple of things: homosexuality and Lot. You may think of a few other details, but the main character we think of is Lot, and the main problem we address is homosexuality. If we stop there, though, I think we are missing some key lessons.
Yesterday in class, we talked specifically about Lot's wife (Gen. 19:26) and Lot's sons-in-law (19:14). The Bible tells us that all of the aforementioned people were destroyed with Sodom. Why do you think that was?
When we think about worldliness, we tend to think of materialistic things: money, clothing, toys, houses, cars, retirement funds, etc. We think of tangible things that this earth has to offer. I believe that Lot's wife and sons-in-law were struggling with worldliness, too, but I don't think it had a lot to do with the stuff that was in Sodom.
It is possible for us to become too attached to people. God has beautifully designed marriage and families and friendships, and aren't we all thankful for those blessings? But Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that we cannot place even those God-designed relationships above our relationship with God.
Relationships are important to us. We need them to survive. Robert recently used an illustration in one of his sermons about a study that was conducted on newborns to try to find out their natural language. These infants were placed in a room that was isolated, and the nurses had to promise not to speak to the children, that way the words that the children used first would be a 'natural language', and the world could finally find out what that was. Guess what happened? In three months, all of these infants had died. Why? Because we need relationships to survive. We need intimacy and friendship and love.
What happens when we love the wrong thing, or we love the right thing too much? I believe it's a form of worldliness. Lot's wife and his sons-in-law didn't seem to be caught up necessarily in the sins of Sodom, they just seemed to be too attached to their lives there: their friends, their neighbors, their day-to-day routines. Perhaps if Lot had chosen (when Abraham gave him the opportunity) to go a different direction other than Sodom, all of this could have been avoided; Lot could have saved his family. But, when we choose to surround ourselves with people who are worldly, our relationships turn into a form of worldliness.
We must be careful who we associate with, and who we choose to get close to. In class, I asked the girls if this meant that we couldn't have any friends who weren't Christians. They said no. I asked why, and they said, 'How would we spread the gospel?" and that's exactly right. But then one of the girls piped up with this: "But we have to have boundaries in our relationships with people who aren't Christians".
We must set boundaries in our relationships. We cannot ever let a person get so close to us that they pull us away from God. That could be someone who isn't a Christian, or that could be your spouse, your kids, your parents, your preacher, or any other relationship in your life. We cannot let our lives be so wrapped up in a person that we neglect our relationship with God.
Think about your life: are you letting a relationship with someone on earth get in the way of your relationship with your Heavenly Father? Maybe that relationship is taking up all your time, thus leaving you with no time to study or pray. Maybe that relationship is one that God deems unacceptable (it involves adultery, fornication, sexual immorality), and thus you aren't close to Him because your sin separates you. Maybe the relationship tempts you be involved with things that are sinful (drinking, gossiping, cursing, using crude humor, skipping worship services) and thus your relationship with God has suffered because you're no longer interested in pursuing godliness.
Take an inventory of your relationships, and don't let anyone get you so attached to this world that you forget that your citizenship isn't here, it's in heaven (Philippians 3:20). If you are involved in a relationship/friendship with someone who is pulling you away from God or forcing you away from Him because the relationship is sinful, please get out of it. When we think of Lot's wife and sons-in-law, it's easy to wonder--why would you choose to be utterly destroyed when you could have life? You had been given a way of escape! Why didn't you use it?
You have been given a way of escape. You have been given a choice. Choose to follow after God, lest your worldly relationships lead you down a path that destroys you. No relationship is worth that. No relationship on this earth is worth compromising your eternal soul.