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)