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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sodom and homosexuality

The story of the destruction of Sodom is told in Genesis 18:16 - 19:29. It is not a pretty story. God sent two angels to the city. They spent the night with Lot, Abraham's nephew. While they were there, all of the men of the city surrounded Lot's house, and demanded that he send out his guests (they, and Lot, thought that the angels were males) so that they could rape them. The next day, the angels took Lot and his family out of the city, and it was destroyed.

It is often stated that Sodom (and its neighboring city, Gomorrah) was destroyed because of its homosexual sin. It is also implied that homosexuality is the worst possible sin. That's not consistent with what the Bible has to say. Here's what Ezekiel said about Sodom:

16:48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (ESV)

Ezekiel listed pride, gluttony, and sloth, and inhospitality, and doesn't directly refer to homosexuality (unless the "did an abomination" refers to that.) Ezekiel also said that the Jews were worse than Sodom. (they "have not done" as the Jews did.)

Jude 1:7 does refer to homosexuality:
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire*, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. *text note: Greek other flesh (ESV)

But that can't be taken to make homosexuality the worst sin. Christ, Himself, said, in Matthew 11:20-24, when Capernaum rejected His teaching, that they were worse than the inhabitants of ancient Sodom, and, in Luke 10:1-12, that any town that did not receive the seventy-two disciples, was worse than Sodom.

Pride, according to Ezekiel, was the besetting sin of the inhabitants of Sodom. Here's what John Calvin said about that, in his commentary on this passage: ". . . but we must see how Sodom rushed forward to that degree of licentiousness so as to be horrified by no enormity. God says that they began by pride, and surely pride is the mother of all contempt of God and of all cruelty."

I conclude, therefore, that homosexual behavior is not the worst sin, now, nor was it in Sodom's day. Putting ourselves pridefully up as gods probably is.

For more on this topic, see the last part of this post, from Parableman.


elbogz said...

Very good commentary. One question I have is this; there were a lot of things that were abominations to God. I can’t find that eating shrimp or disobeying your parents were any worse than sexual perversion. They were all an abomination to God.

As I learned it, God created a new covenant with mankind though Jesus Christ. That, is why we could eat pork, and why we didn’t stone to death our children when they disobey. So how is it, we can go though the old testament buffet style and pick those things God hates, curse someone's sexuality and then go home and have a nice bowl of lobster bisque?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, elbogz.

Christians should never go "buffet style," although some of us do sometimes. We shouldn't hate anyone, certainly including homosexuals. We should hate sin, especially in ourselves, but that's not the same as hating the person.

The New Testament makes clear that the Jewish dietary laws and sacrifices are not a requirement for gentile Christians. It also makes clear that sexuality morality is part of the New Covenant, as well as the Old Covenant in the Old Testament. There is a little in the NT condemning homosexuality -- much more about fornication, or sex with someone you aren't married to, in [implied] the traditional sense of female to male.