Summary: God calls on us to keep reaching to out to help others - just as he has helped us.
Last week I began my sermon by talking about those people who constantly change lanes to get ahead of the traffic. Drivers like that put themselves and others at risk and we don’t like it. But when an ambulance with sirens blaring does the same thing, we don’t mind. In fact we’re trained to make room for such emergency vehicles because they’re rushing to the rescue. That’s what we want them to do isn’t it—to rush? After all a quick response may mean the difference between life and death.
In our sermon series on Abraham and his journey of faith, we learned last week how he set a peacemaker pace when he unselfishly let his nephew Lot choose where he wanted to move his flocks even if this meant Abraham might fall behind in the race for wealth. Abraham was the kind of guy that if you cut in line ahead of him at SuperStore, he wouldn’t object. But we should not take this nonchalance to mean that Abraham was uncaring. No, we see just how considerate Abraham was when he rushed to the rescue of his nephew Lot in today’s text. Rushing to the rescue should also be something that we do often on our journey of faith—even if we’ve been on that journey for a long time and are rather tired of bailing others out. Let’s find out more.
You’ll remember from last week that Lot moved his family into the Jordan valley because the grass was greener there. He made this choice as eagerly as a street racer zipping into a gap in traffic never pausing to consider that his Uncle Abraham might like to move his flocks there. Lot thought only of himself, and didn’t seem to care that he would end up living next door to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In time he actually moved into the city of Sodom. But unfortunately for Lot, his adopted city had some nasty enemies. Kings from places we know today as Iran and Iraq swooped down to attack Sodom and Gomorrah because they had stopped paying tribute. They soundly defeated the cities and took everything of value including the citizens to make them slaves or to use them as hostages. Among the captives was poor Lot.
When word reached Abraham he sat back and chuckled, “My rascal nephew made his bed, now he’s got to lie in it. Good luck to him!” No, that’s not what Abraham said. Instead he quickly got his servants together to pursue and rescue the hostages. If you were in your late 70’s, early 80’s, would you consider going on a Navy Seal type military rescue mission to save a brat? And keep in mind, Abraham wouldn’t make this pursuit in a Blackhawk helicopter. He would spend days on foot or on a mule! And yet there was no hesitation. He rushed to the rescue. Abraham’s love and concern for his nephew Lot is impressive. It was an enduring and gracious kind of love.
How does your love for others compare? Are you in the habit of rushing to the rescue on your journey of faith, or do you find yourself standing off to the side, minding your own business because you don’t want to get involved or because the person who could use your help is someone who has slighted you in the past? And anyway you’ve performed your share of rescues, it’s someone else’s turn! But how does such an attitude compare to Abraham’s who thought nothing of the cost or the effort as an 80-year-old to embark on a military campaign to rescue a rascally relative? How does it fit with the words of Jesus from our Gospel lesson where he said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:3, 4).
“Ah, see Pastor, that’s the rub. The people who could use my help haven’t repented of their slights. I’m under no obligation to help them.” Couldn’t Abraham have said the same thing of Lot? As far as we know Lot never apologized to Abraham for his past behavior. He didn’t even have the chance to cry for help before he was taken captive. And yet Abraham rushed to the rescue—unafraid to put his own life on the line. Doesn’t that remind you of another dramatic rescue, like how God rushed to our rescue? He did so even though we were willing captives of Satan. We rag on Adam and Eve for believing Satan’s lie that they could be like God if they ate from that tree, but we fall for that lie daily whenever we put our comforts ahead of God’s honor like when we cut others off to get ahead whether on the road or at the dinner table. And still God didn’t just shrug his shoulders and turn away. Instead he rushed to our rescue and look at the effort he made. He didn’t send his servants to fight it out with Satan, he sent his own Son. While there is no record of Abraham sustaining any injuries in his fight to rescue Lot, Jesus was pierced through his hands, his feet, but worst of all he was shot through the heart when his own Father turned his back on him—all because of our sins.