You are the salt of the earth.
4 For if God …. did not spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example of what is coming for the ungodly; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the perverted conduct of unscrupulous people 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from a trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt passion, and despise authority.
2 Peter 2:4-10
Recently I was having coffee with a (much) younger colleague at work and he asked me an interesting question: What did I think was likely to happen to the world in the future?
He had in mind, Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both of those events pose potential existential threats to the human race, one through disease and the other through nuclear Armageddon. At the very least he felt that they, and other things such as climate change, are threatening the way of life he had come to know and enjoy here in the West. There are many more people in the Western world feeling insecure and afraid after the events of the last couple of years than before.
I explained to him, that as a Christian, I could point to some precedents in the Bible but that I didn’t really know how the coming months and years will work out. They could work out in one of several ways: the Western world as we know it might be destroyed or it might not. Or maybe something in between will happen. Or maybe it will continue to prosper as it has for the last few centuries.
The second letter of Peter quoted from above includes the main elements of what Christians call the Day of Judgement: Judgement on the ungodly and salvation of the righteous. As Christians we know that the Day of Judgement is coming on the whole earth, but when? And would that be the same as judgement on the Western world as we know it?
As a precedent for a more local judgement (as opposed to a worldwide judgement like the flood or the coming Day of Judgement) let’s consider the case of Sodom.
Ezekiel had this to say, from God, about why Sodom was destroyed:
Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The thing that is striking is God’s description of what was wrong with Sodom. I mean Sodom gave its name to Sodomy so you would have thought that that would have been the most obvious thing to say about Sodom! But God doesn’t do that. Instead He starts with the root of Sodom’s problems.
When it comes to Sodom, it would be hard not to draw parallels with a lot of what is happening in today’s Western society. Here are the main characteristics of Western society that it shares with Sodom:
Pride: The extraordinary achievements of Western society are without parallel. But if you look into why we have achieved so much you will find that nearly all the mainsprings of these achievements have arisen during the Reformation, in 19th century Christian Britain and the 20th and 21st Century Christian US. Individuals read the Scriptures, heard from God and obeyed Him. You can look at any field in which Western society has excelled from physics to medicine, to government and justice, police and emergency services, social welfare and alleviation of poverty and you will see the name (character) of Jesus all over it. The light of the gospel has spread over all the earth and continues to transform the kingdoms of this earth.
But man in his folly thinks he has done it and is better than God. That is pride and it is the root and main reason why destruction could come upon the West. In TED talks and The Economist or any number of other mainstream Western intellectual outlets you can boast about man and his achievements to your heart’s content but, whatever you do, don’t mention Jesus. Keep Him for evangelical church preaching platforms on a Sunday.
Humanists, who give a philosophical basis to man’s extraordinary pride, claim that all the good that we see around us in Western society can be traced back to the Enlightenment period which they claim for their own because of a few things a few French humanists wrote. None of that popular thinking bears serious scrutiny but it is a very convenient lie (along with evolutionary thinking but that is a topic for another blog).
Fulness of Food: This is not a bad thing of course. Except when you don’t give thanks to the One who supplied it to you. Obesity is one of the Western world’s most besetting health issues.
Abundance of idleness: In Western society millions of people are given money for doing nothing. We all complain more than we should. But when you are being given money for doing nothing then somehow the complaining seems even more reprehensible.
Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy: When you have an abundance then giving is something that should be happening right? The UN set a goal of 0.7% of GDP giving per nation. Only six countries have ever met the target, and the OECD (rich countries) average has never exceeded 0.4%.
And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me: So because of their pride and the other things they became haughty and committed the abominations that some Christians love to focus on. Of course there is a lot of that going on.
So will this generation of Western Society be judged?
Hear me carefully about this: I don’t know. It could be this generation or it might be many generations in the future. The Day of Judgement is coming but I don’t know when. Maybe you do. I have yet to read anyone who can convince me that they know.
Is some kind of lesser judgement coming on the Western world before the Day of Judgement? Again, I don’t know.
One of the reasons I don’t know is because the wrath of God was fully spent on Jesus on the Cross. On Himself that is, not us.
Another is the biblical precedent of Sodom and Abraham. Like anyone who has known the grace of God, God considered Abraham righteous through faith not his works. And he had an interesting conversation with God about Sodom and Gomorrah before they were destroyed:
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. 23 Abraham approached and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the entire place on their account.” 27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am only dust and ashes. 28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the entire city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” 33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
How many Abrahams are on the earth today having similar conversations with God about the Western world?
If 10 righteous people would have been enough to save Sodom (Genesis 18:32) how many does it take to save the Western world from judgement?
[Secondary related questions: How many people were in Sodom anyway? How much salt does it take to preserve something (say meat) as a percentage of the whole? I have no idea how this works.]
However I would recommend this: If you are one of those chosen by God for eternal life, give thanks and rejoice and worship God. Your praise and prayers may be more important to the future of this generation than you think.
You are the salt of the earth.