Missing the Point of Sodom

Have you ever lived in a place so dangerous, so ruled by gangs, oppressive landlords, thugs and thieves that reaching the end of a day was a victory, surviving until morning a cause for downright celebration?

No?

But you’ve heard of these places – or visited them perhaps? Housing projects in inner cities, third world countries, sections of big cities after dark, motels out by the airport, backwoods towns where people still keep shotguns on their porches.

Some people live in places so dangerous it’s as if prison gangs were in office and it’s a daily struggle not to just give up and join those who live by the code of violence. Choosing not to fight depravity with depravity under daily duress is downright miraculous in these places.

This is what it was like in Sodom.

I don’t know why people focus so much on the type of rape being threatened in Sodom. The events described in Genesis 19 were less La Cage Aux Folles and more Gran Torino. This is not a description of gay men looking for relationships as much as it is about depraved barbarians using sexual violence to exert power over the helpless. The men they were threatening weren’t even men, after all, they were angels, and I have no idea what the word is for that!

Okay, I’ll back up.

For my recent posts about homosexuality and faith, I’ve done serious Biblical research and, of course, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah came up. So, I did something unheard of in many circles – I read the account for myself (Genesis 19 if you’re inclined).

Lot, Abraham’s nephew, settled in the best land that God offered. It so happened, this land existed near Sodom where there were people who lived in extreme wickedness. (Makes sense that those with the most power and might would snatch the best land for themselves.)

Through the years, their wickedness increased and God heard the outcry of those who appealed to Him for justice. (Because, wherever there is wickedness, there are victims.)

So, God sends these two angels to see if things are as bad as the people crying out to Him are saying. Lot meets them as they enter the city and he persuades them to take refuge in his home.

This was an act of traditional ancient Mid-Eastern hospitality. Travel was dangerous in those times and there were no McDonald’s drive-thru’s or Motel 6’s, so people depended on the generosity of strangers when they arrived in a new city.

Lot takes the men/angels to his home, feeds them, washes their feet, and assumes responsibility for their safety – no small thing. When it’s dark, EVERY MAN IN THE CITY gathers at Lot’s door and demands he send the men/angels out so they could “have their sport with them.”

Every man in the city.

This isn’t a story about homosexuality – it’s about power, mob rule, unrestrained violence, and unbridled wickedness.

In Ezekiel 16:49-50, God says this about the sins of Sodom, “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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

This goes beyond sexual attraction between men – way beyond. This is about a place where almost no one had NOT given in to wickedness.

When Abraham learned that God meant to destroy Sodom, he appealed to the Lord that if He found fifty righteous men would He spare the city? Yes. Forty-five? Yes. Forty? Yes. Thirty? Yes. Twenty? Yes. Ten? Yes. Of course.

But these ten were not found. In an entire city, there were not ten men who hadn’t joined in with the depravity.

Often, people get so hung up on the headlines of Sodom that they miss the desperate act of bravery on the part of one man. Lot.

Lot is no hero, really. He’s probably made numerous compromises in order to survive in Sodom but here he tries to stand – alone – against the mob at his door. Every man in the city is there, poised to commit heinous violence. But on behalf of two strangers, Lot goes outside and faces them down.

They pressure him. They call him an outsider and accuse him of judging them. They threaten him with even greater violence to him than to the strangers. He is so focused on protecting the angels, that in a final act of desperation, he offers the men his daughters. (This is very hard to comprehend from our modern perspective but it seemed the lesser evil than to have taken strangers into his protection and then allow them to come to harm.)

At this point, the angels have heard enough. They snatch Lot back inside the door and cause the mob to be blind until Lot, his wife, and his daughters escape. He orders them not to look back but Lot’s wife can’t resist and so, she is turned into a pillar of salt.

This isn’t a story of good and evil. This is about the worst of humanity and the bone-weary futility of trying to stand against wickedness day-after-capitulating-day.

Lot barely makes it out alive and he’s probably sold off so many pieces of his soul, at this point, that he’s fortunate Abraham interceded on his behalf.

To use this story, primarily as a conversational club with people struggling with same-sex attraction, is a grievous misuse of this tale. I think, instead, it should be a goad for those of us who call ourselves Christians and who sit safely in well-lit homes watching NCIS reruns and growing weak on empathy for those who live in dangerous places.
Key to this story is Abraham’s intercession that bookends the destruction in Genesis 18 and at the end of 19.

Our safety is, probably, not intended to be used for our own comfort.


Abraham was safe but he used his safety to intercede for Lot who lived on the edge of depravity. We, Christians of the couches, should turn off the Food Network and spend time every night interceding for those who live in gang-ruled cities or voodoo dominant towns or hotbeds of child sexual slavery. We need to intercede for the descendents of Lot.

Otherwise, it will be too easy for some of us to slip silently into the same sins as Sodom: arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, no help to the poor and needy, haughty, and detestable.

Read the story. Think about it. Pray it over. I think that Sodom has more to say to more of us than we’ve been led to believe.

(Read Genesis 18 and 19 together in one sitting and then tell me what you think.)
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3 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the kick in the pants to quit shushing the Holy Spirit that’s been telling me to shut off the Food Network and pray!! My husband and I discuss those chapters often but I never looked at it from the intercessor point of view—-wow…powerful words.

  2. It was the first time I’d studied both chapters together and saw the connections. Eye-opening for me, too!

  3. Cheri says:

    Lori, again, an excellent, challenging and thought-provoking post. So many of us have grown tired of prayer, not realizing the incredibly powerful tool God has placed in our hands. Let us not squander our inheritance!

    Thank you for the reminder,
    Cheri