It is correct that 2 Peter 2:6-8 refers to “righteous Lot,” and describes him, by extension, as a “godly” person. The entire passage reads: “[Since God turned] the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)–then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.”
We must not forget that God spared Lot because He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked (compare Genesis 18:23). The two angels could not find ten righteous in Sodom (compare Genesis 18:32). Only Lot was willing to give them shelter, when they appeared in Sodom as strangers, while “all the people from every quarter” surrounded Lot’s house (Genesis 19:4), to “know them carnally” (verse 5). They did not realize, of course, that the men were angels. Since the Bible says that all of the men were present to act “wickedly” (verse 7), this might even suggest that Lot’s sons-in-law were present as well. Still, the angels were willing to spare Lot’s wife, Lot’s daughters, and even Lot’s sons-in-law (verse 12-15). There is no indication that Lot’s wife, his daughters or his sons-in-law were righteous, but God wanted to spare them for Lot’s sake. However, the sons-in-law did not flee and were consumed, and Lot’s wife died, too, when she looked back, as she apparently did not really want to leave Sodom (Genesis 19:26; compare Luke 17:28-33). We also get the impression from the account in Genesis that God spared Lot, to an extent, because of His righteous servant Abraham (compare Genesis 19:29), implying that Lot was not as righteous as Abraham.
Nevertheless, Lot, too, is described as righteous. However, the fact that Lot is described in that way–in comparison with the wickedness of his surroundings–does not mean that he was without fault or sin. Lot sinned when he greedily chose for himself the seemingly best part of the land of Canaan, “the plain of Jordan,” even though God had promised all of this land to Abraham (compare Genesis 13:7-13). Lot sinned greatly and horribly when he was suggesting to the homosexual citizens of Sodom to commit fornication with his two virgin daughters, to protect the two strangers in his house (compare Genesis 19:8). And he sinned when he allowed his daughters to make him drunk with wine, so that they could have offspring with him (compare Genesis 19:30-38).
However, Lot is still called “righteous” by God, as God looks foremost at the heart and the motive of a person. God forgives sins upon repentance, and He judges us mercifully, when our hearts are right. David SINNED horribly at times; for instance, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah murdered in war. But God forgave him his sins, when he repented. He called David a man after His own HEART. The prostitute Rahab SINNED when she lied about the spies, but she did so because she wanted to save the spies. Lot SINNED when he was willing to turn over his daughters to the wicked men of Sodom, but he did so because he wanted to protect the strangers under his roof, fulfilling God’s command of hospitality and all that it entails.
This does not excuse Lot. But it also shows the great mercy of God who is willing to forgive us our unrighteousness, upon repentance, and to focus, instead, on our righteousness. Peter describes Lot as “just” or “righteous,” because he “tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:8) — even though he might not have always known how to ACT righteously.
In Ezekiel 9:1-11, we find a similar example involving those who are protected from harm because of their righteousness. In this passage, God commands His angels to slay the wicked, but to spare those in Jerusalem “who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (verse 4). Again, God is focusing primarily on the hearts and motives of His people. This does not mean that God tolerates or even justifies wrongdoing–but He understands that the flesh is weak. That is why we need God’s help DAILY to make us righteous–both in motive and in conduct–by forgiving us our sins, upon genuine repentance, and by cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). When we confess and leave behind our unrighteousness, as Lot did, God forgives and forgets about it, while focusing instead on our righteousness.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link