Read: Genesis 16-27
Verse that stood out: "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" [God] answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it" (Genesis 18:32).
How often have you heard it said (or even said yourself) that bad company corrupts good character? No doubt there is some truth to this old saying. It's even found in the scriptures in a couple of different forms (1 Cor 15:33; Psalm 1; some of the Proverbs). We all know folks who found themselves led astray into immoral ways of living largely because they surrounded themselves with bad company. An yet, in the scriptures, there is another truth that stands in tension with this common cliché - that is the truth that the presence of a few righteous people can stay the hand of God's judgment on a people at large. We might call this the saving power of a few.
The tension of these truths came to a head in the life of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees held fast to the first truth. So sure that bad company corrupts good character, the Pharisees lived as if "sinners" and people who were "unclean" were contagious. They put up all kinds of barriers to exclude those they felt were "bad company". Jesus, on the other hand, kept tearing these barriers down, certain that what was ultiamtely contagious was not sin (he knew perhaps that all suffered from that afflcition already) but holiness.
In doing so, Jesus' life completes the inquiry of Abraham. Abraham boldly asked God if he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if just fifty, forty-five, thirty, twenty, even just ten righteous people could be found in it. Each time God affirmed he would show mercy in that case, but apparently not even ten could be found. Abraham stopped the negotiation at ten. Even this patriarch of faith could not imagine a mercy greater than that. Left unasked was the question, "What if just one could be found?" How would God respond then? In Jesus, I think we have our answer.
The apostle Paul clearly picks up this truth as applying to Jesus recognizing that God has delayed judgment on sins, “To show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26). In the small minority of one, the righteous Jesus Christ, the punishment of God has been removed for all. The saving power of a few, indeed.