Monday, June 27, 2011

Intercession and Infamy

We continue to read the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. Today our attention is focused on probably the most infamous town in the Old Testament, Sodom. The reading is, however, only indirectly about their sin.
Instead, it is meant to be another moment when Abraham serves a a model.

As the story goes, Abraham hears what the Lord is about to do and his first response is not to pile on. Instead, his first response is to look for some little bit of good that might be there, and to ensure justice.
He begins by asking for the two cities not to be destroyed if there are 50 just people, a tiny fraction of the population of two cities. And God agrees.

Then Abraham begins the negotiation. Normally, it is not good to negotiate with God but here it is meant to demonstrate Abraham's concern for even a few. Abraham then starts the classic haggle. Being both deferential and persistent, he works he way down to the number 10. And God, being a God of justice, agrees that if there are even 10 innocent people, he will not destroy the city.

On one level Abraham does not yet understand God. He does not understand that God is a just God, and would not punish the innocent. But more important is what Abraham models for us.

First, he looks for the good that is there no matter how small. Are we people how look for the good in every situation or do we focus on the negative?

Secondly, he understands the power of intercessory prayer. Not because it guarantees that we will get what we want, but because even when we don't get what we want we get something we need.

Thirdly, he seeks justice for every single soul. He does not judge people in groups. Nor does he believe in acceptable collateral damage. Already at this earliest phase of the story he models our believe in the dignity of every human person and their right to justice.

Today can we see every individual around us, treat them with the dignity they deserve, and pray for those in need.