Skirting the City?

“And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.Genesis 13:10-13 (14:11-12; 18:20-22; 19:15-22,29)

“And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.” Genesis 33:18-34:2,(6-10,13-31)

There was something in both Lot and Jacob that was drawn toward cities, bastions of worldliness from which the Lord had called their family. Their heritage was heathen and polytheistic, and He called them out to form a people that would know and serve and honor the One True God. Where He purported to build them as a nation apart, they thought they could mix and mingle with no consequences, but that proved foolish. Once near and toward, the will softens into, in, and among. It’s impossible to separate a blended affection. (Genesis 11:31-12:4; Joshua 24:14)

City lights are alluring. The draw of anonymity and indulgence of the flesh make noise and sparkle attractive, and once we settle on the fringes, sneak becomes saunter. Whether it is a temptation of mental, sensual, or geographic wandering, resistance softens when our juices start flowing. We take a peek, we dip the toe, we taste the sweet, we handle the jeweled trinket, and it’s hard to stop once the spigot of giving in opens. (Proverbs 5:3-6; 23:31-32)

More prudent is the one who avoids the sin place altogether than the one who thinks he can flirt at the edge and not be affected. God gives discernment and spiritual strength to know how and where to be in and not of the world. He is mighty to hem us in, and prays for our faithfulness as we spread salt and light, yet frowns on our foolishness. (Matthew 5:13-14; John 17:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:13)

What “cities” tempt us? A step toward laxness in fellowship leads to isolation from edification and encouragement, leads to flabby faith? Sloth in the spiritual disciplines leads to first-thing-in-the-morning tuning in to a screen of world-speak, leads to warped thinking and a humanistic mindset? Over-indulgence in comfort and luxury leads to hoarding rights and entitlements, leads to greed-clenched fists and condescension toward others? Self-gratifying is never soul satisfying. (Romans 12:11; Hebrews 10:23-25)

Father, guard me from skirting or indulging those places of mind and flesh that would pull me from you. Sanctify me in Your truth, that I live fruitfully and honorably in, and not of, the world.

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