The Christian Sodomy Epidemic

This is the second of three articles to encourage healthier dialogue between evangelical Christians and the homosexual community. As such, the purpose is neither to condemn nor excuse homosexuality, but to seek to find a “common ground” that we all share, in which to begin the conversation.

There is a serious epidemic in Christian circles, that seems to often be left unnoticed. The Church is absolutely riddled with Sodomites.

            The term “Sodomite” comes from a story in the Bible. In Genesis 19, God sent three angels to investigate the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, because He’d heard the townspeople were doing the wrong thing. God told His plan to the great hero Abraham in Genesis 18. Abraham had seen the three angels walking along, and immediately invited them to stay with him before they went to Sodom.

Upon arriving in Sodom, the angels tried to stay in the centre of the city (the equivalent of the local hotel), but were warned against it by an immigrant in Sodom, Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Lot suggested instead that they should stay at his place, behind locked doors. The reason for this was revealed when the townsmen banged on his door, demanding that he throw his guests out to the street, so they could have sex with them. This was the final straw for God. He saved Lot and his daughters, then destroyed the city.

What was the crime of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah? With our pre-installed title of “Sodomite”, and our peculiarly western fixation with sexuality, evangelicals often assume it was their homosexuality. But if we look at both the historical and textual context of the story (in other words, do what we evangelicals often pride ourselves on doing with the Bible), we might see their crime is closer to home.

In fact, it’s all about home. In ancient near eastern society, one of the strongest moral expectations was hospitality. The Sodomites obviously weren’t good hosts to the three visitors, and that is their biggest crime. That might sound strange, unless you’re a nomad who’s wandered around the near eastern desert. To not show hospitality, especially to strangers, is considered criminal in such a context, because it essentially condemns the person to death by dehydration, freezing, heatstroke, or starvation. This is made more clear by the good guys of this story, Abraham and Lot. They show remarkable hospitality to the three strangers, which only heightens the contrast between them and the Sodomites.

Where Sodom is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, one verse (Jude 7) criticises their “sexual immorality” (though, admittedly, that could just as well be because they were rapists, rather than that they were gay). The other verses define Sodom’s sin in terms of hospitality (ie, Jesus in Matthew 11:23-24). In Ezekiel 16:49, God specifically says Sodom’s crime was that they “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” So, Biblically, a Sodomite is more accurately defined as somebody who does not welcome others.

Hospitality does not mean that you can’t have standards and expectations – you don’t have to allow a guest to leave the fridge-door open. But you need to do the hard thing of finding ways of framing those standards in ways that still help guests – especially the vulnerable – to be made to feel welcome, and safe in your home.

In my previous article, I wrote about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Neither homosexuals… nor the greedy, etc… will inherit the Kingdom of God.” But the very next verse says: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This clearly suggests that the Corinthian church was made up of people who had been homosexual, or greedy, or whatever, when they started going there. The Corinthian Christians made them feel welcome, while also somehow finding ways to remain authentic to their belief. Eventually, they found a solution to the guests’ issues that meant the guests could become Christians themselves. The Solution was Jesus and the Spirit of God.

Sadly, some Christians today seem to be as inhospitable as the Sodomites were, especially to homosexuals, but also to other Christians who disagree with them on this issue. And, I might gently suggest, some in the homosexual community are in danger of really becoming Sodomites, by stereotyping Christians and refusing to join them in dialogue. Fortunately, though, many more of us are following the way of Abraham, Lot, and the Corinthians, and offering a refuge for all those who need it, and a space for friendly dialogue. We seek to follow the way of Jesus, Who promised, “I go to prepare a home for you…”(John 14:1-3)

Matt Gray

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5 responses to “The Christian Sodomy Epidemic

  1. Hey Matt,
    I like what i see you doing here – the idea of ‘changing the conversation’ rather than getting bogged down into a black and white ‘who is right and who is wrong’ argument … It’s something Jesus seemed to do often :)
    One minor thing caught my eye, you used the phrase “when they started going there” about people joining the Corinthian church, which to my mind subtly suggests a picture of church as a place people go to once a week. I’m not sure the Corinthians (or any other NT church) saw themselves that way at all! And perhaps the fact that we too often fall into the trap of seeing church that way is part of the point you are making – when we understand church as a community of people sharing and doing life together, a community to which people can belong rather than simply an event they attend – then we can begin to have conversations with one another, hospitable conversations, about what it looks like to follow Jesus in our actions and lifestyles, and be transformed together more and more into His image.

  2. Awesome point, Melinda. It got me thinking, too – there is so much pressure inadvertently for any non-Christian coming into the Sunday morning thing. They don’t have to be gay, it’s the same for most people. If we have a broader view of what the church congregation is – that it’s also who we are when we have people over for dinner, or are out together for coffee, for example – then I think this is where this hospitality best starts to happen. Basically, a non-Christian (and obviously not just a gay non-Christian) is going to find it easier to hang out with Christians in these less formal settings. And from the Christians’ perspective, having coffee with somebody is less filled with expectations and standards, etc. It seems a good via media.

  3. The Corinthian list are sin issues which the Corinthian Christians laid aside when they came to Christ (actions). I just want to underscore that in case people think you are saying something else because I think that it speaks to behavior more than orientation. There is a whole bunch of Christian ministries aimed at curing homosexuality, but I don’t think that is what Paul is on about. I think he is spurring them on to holiness which includes a change in behavior.

    Loved the post!

  4. At first, I must confess, the seemingly emergent tone of this article set off alarm bells for me.

    Whilst I don’t think that you’re correct in your position that the sin of Sodom was a lack of hospitality, I think I see where you’re going.

    We should most certainly be welcoming to all and sundry into our churches. Into our homes. Into our small groups. We have all sinned and desperately need God to extend His grace to us. No one is too far gone for the saving work of Christ to redeem…for which we should all cry a hearty ‘amen!’.

    Just for the record, I’d like to make the distinction between hospitality and ‘turning a blind eye to someone’s sin’. Whilst we need to be accepting of all in that we are ALL sinners, we need to be calling all to repent of their sin. Homosexuality, gluttony, theft, hatred et al. It is impossible for one to be pursuing Christ whilst living a life of unrepentant sin. If we claim Christ whilst actively pursuing sin (whatever that sin is) we deceive ourselves.

    Lets bring people in…regardless of their sin…but lets have them leave with the gospel. May the light of the gospel of grace show the sin for the horror that it is when laid upon the backdrop of Calvary.

    • Amen, Dan. That’s kinda where I was going with the “fridge-door” thing. We can’t deny the reality of sin, for anybody (and least of all ourselves!

      Part of my point here, though, is I think practically we have to earn permission from people to speak into their lives, including about their sin. And that comes from hospitality. I don’t think that’s turning a blind eye. I think that’s waiting for a listening ear.

      I think we see this with Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus doesn’t tell him to stop being a tax-cheat. He tells him to get down from his tree and make Him lunch. Jesus doesn’t even tell Zach to change before He’ll enter the house. He doesn’t tell him at all. The authenticity of Jesus in hospitality (He’s welcoming Zach just as much as Zach’s welcoming Him!) ultimately reveals his sin to him, and leads to repentance.

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