James L. Evans, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, recently wrote about the sins that cities (and nations) might be judged for in the light of Biblical complaints about Sodom.
He points out that Sodom, or “Sodom and Gomorrah,” is commonly used as shorthand for homosexual licentiousness pervading a culture, and that
“Nearly everyone agrees that what the men of Sodom had in mind was homosexual rape … Many Bible interpreters believe that what really got God going was the homosexual element in the story. After all homosexual practices are called an “abomination,” in the book of Leviticus. But then, so is eating shrimp, so we have to wonder how far does an abomination go?”
“One way to answer that question is to observe how large the homosexual issue seems to be in the rest of the Bible. For instance, Jesus doesn’t say anything about homosexual practices at all.”
It is true, of course, that Jesus mentions sexual sin in general. But in fact he does not single out homosexuality. Jesus’ example seems important to me compared to the way many American Christians and preachers bring homosexual behavior up so frequently – while avoiding criticism of sins that are vastly more prevalent. Jesus did not major on minors.
Neither did Paul, although Paul does mention homosexuality in Romans 1.
“However, as soon as he makes his case he immediately concludes in the very next chapter that those who condemn such practices are really guilty of the same thing. Interestingly enough, Paul does not invoke Sodom at all.”
Hmm. “Those who condemn such practices are really guilty of the same thing.”
He then informs us that Sodom is mentioned over 20 times in the Bible.
“The ones that are theological clearly regard Sodom as a place of particular wickedness. But even when the emphasis is on Sodom’s shortcomings the homosexual element is not mentioned. Only the Epistle of Jude mentions sex at all in reference to Sodom.”
The problem comes when we find passages that treat Sodom’s sins at any length. Actually, two problems come.
First, the sins described as being so offensive to God are not homosexual, nor even (with the exception in Jude) sexual at all.
Second, the sins described are ones highly characteristic of many American lives and even of America as a whole if compared to the rest of the world.
“In fact, the only real detailed accounting of Sodom’s sins comes from the prophetic traditions of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. For Jeremiah, the sin that brought the wrath of God down on Sodom was the worship of other gods – idolatry. For Isaiah the failure that tipped God’s hand was oppression of the weak and vulnerable. Ezekiel continues this theme by accusing Sodom of having too much wealth and not enough concern for the poor.”
“So … The tragedy of the Big Easy may indeed represent a sort of modern day Sodom. There was certainly wealth and comfort jammed along side poverty and misery.”
“Although why single out New Orleans? There are many places where there is great disparity between the haves and the have-nots. And if we bring third world countries into the comparison, the whole of America might qualify for a Sodom-like condemnation.”
For example, here’s a quote from Ezekiel (16:49,50)
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were
- and unconcerned;
- they did not help the poor and needy.
- They were haughty
- and did detestable things before me.”
Do we know any cities, towns, or rural areas in America guilty of maybe two or three of those? The term “detestable things” might have meant homosexual activity. But it would more certainly have included heterosexual immorality of types prevalent in America today.
The point of all this is not to argue whether God approves of homosexual behavior. The point is that there are a lot of things prevalent in America today that God is quite vocal in condemning.