23Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
So many are so willing to look upon the Old Testament as if it were filled with a vengeful God and warring people. Yet here, when God approaches the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, renowned for their abuse of the poor and vulnerable, Abraham dares to argue with God to spare them. Jesus isn’t making it up from nowhere when he tells us to love our enemies. He is not asking us to feel warm and fuzzy about them; he is asking us to act in their best interest, to treat them as we would members of our own household, to recognize that they are human beings whom God would gather with all into his grace and life, to argue with God for their protection and well-being. Those who pray for God to wreak vengeance on the wicked are expressing understandable human emotions, just not the thoughts of God.
Jonah ran from his prophetic responsibility lest the hated Assyrians might repent and God forgive – but God chased him down and sent him back to his task. And what Jonah feared came to pass; God spared Nineveh.
When Elisha brings the captured enemy army to the king, the king asks, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Elisha tells the king to feed them and he sets before them a banquet, bringing an end to the cycle of violence.
There is violence in the world and there are times to take up the sword to protect the weak and vulnerable, but the God of the scriptures is not a warrior god. For the truth of this, one need only consider that there are times God sides with Israel’s enemies against his own people because they have forgotten justice and the care of the poor.
So Abraham prays. He prays for the wicked cities. He prays not that they will be shown the error of their ways and become like Abraham, but that God will spare them in the day of judgment. He argues that the few good men and women there make the whole city worth saving. He asks God to act in a manner consistent with God’s character. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
Abraham asks God to show faithfulness and mercy even as God has asked it of us.
“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and you’re your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and send rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)