Monday, December 31, 2012

The sins of Sodom

Every so often a preacher will stand up and say that God is punishing us or is about to punish us in the same way he punished Sodom. And when they talk about ‘Sodom’ in this way, they don’t even need to say what they think God might punish us for – everyone knows it’s for homosexual practices. The funny thing is God never said he punished Sodom for homosexual practices at all.  

Yes, that’s right. We all presume it’s in there, right. I mean everyone knows that Sodom was punished because the people in there were homosexuals. But it’s not actually in the bible. What is in the bible is that men came to Lot’s house in Sodom and asked to have sex with the male visitors (who were angels) that had there. (This was after God had said he would destroy Sodom, by the way.) But it doesn’t actually say God destroyed Sodom for this reason.

And so if we want to rant and rave about Sodom and get people all scared that God is going to show his wrath in the same way again, we better be very clear about what the sins of Sodom actually were. I mean if we want to prevent it – which apparently many preachers and Christians do – then we want to make sure we’re avoiding the very things that Sodom did. Right?

I can imagine people thinking, well if God didn’t actually specify what the sins of Sodom were, it was implicit in the actions committed before it was destroyed. And so it’s obvious that homosexuality was the cause of God’s wrath. The problem is there is something better to go on. (And no, I’m not talking about some kind of sociological study or personal feeling or liberal attitude.) How do we know what the sins of Sodom were? We go to the bible. Because the bible actually states quite clearly what they were.

Now the only thing mentioned in Genesis is the story about men wanting to have sex with the angels and the fact that there was a huge outcry against Sodom. Also in Jude 1:7 it says that Sodom and Gomorrah practices sexual perversion and immorality. So I do believe that sexual immorality (though not specifically homosexuality) was part of Sodom’s sins. I say only part, because Ezekiel 16:49 gives quite a different account of what Sodom’s sins were. It says ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’

Whoa! Maybe we should be scared. Arrogant, overfed, unconcerned (some translations say idle or lazy) and not helpful to the poor and needy. Sounds like most of the people I know. Matter of fact, it kind of sounds like me too. Probably sounds like most of the people in the western world – and I’m including Christians.

I mean if we’re really serious about avoiding the same fate as Sodom – which it appears many people are – then we need to take steps to get rid of these things. No more over eating. Let’s legislate against that. Boycott McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks. Let’s fine people for being idle or lazy. And let’s put rules in place to ensure every single person cares about the poor and the needy. Making laws against pride is going to be hard, but I’m sure we can think of something. Of course, it may mean that practically everyone ends up on the wrong side of the law.

And the next time we feel tempted to blame a natural disaster on God’s wrath at homosexuals, perhaps we should take a good long look at our own life. Sodom was a case where God showed his anger. I agree with the preachers on that point. I also believe that he may show his anger in the same way again. But I don’t think it will be because of homosexual practices. I think God’s anger is far more likely to be against the very sins He says Sodom committed: gluttony, pride, unconcern and laziness. Let’s take a look at our own lives and see if there’s any way we might be incurring the wrath of God, rather than pointing our fingers at other people.

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