In this post, I’m addressing the sin of Sodom and the relevance of this ancient story with today’s western culture.
My wife is currently reading an interesting book: ‘The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – an english professor’s journey into christian faith’, written by Dr Rosaria Champagne Butterfield [Crown & Covenant Publications, Library of Congress Control Number: 2012933827 ©2012]
I was glancing through the pages just before lunch, and I spotted Rosaria’s excellent comments on the following verses, I’ve read similar material before yet her comments are so concise and well-written.
Ezekiel 16:48-50 (NKJV): ‘“As I live,” says the Lord God, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you (Jerusalem) and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”
I normally use the latest version of the NIVUK, but the words used in the NKJV convey a better sense of some of the issues.
In these few verses we can see that pride is a sin which gives birth to a range of other sins, including sexual sins.
I’ll now use an excerpt from Rosaria’s book, because she is an English professor and a much better communicator than ‘me’; and I guess it’s covered by ‘Fair Use’.
“Why pride? Pride is the root of all sin. Pride puffs one up with a false sense of independence. Proud people always feel they can live independently from God and from other people. Proud people feel entitled to do what they want when they want to.
Second, we find wealth (“fullness of food”) and an entertainment-driven worldview (“abundance of idleness”). We develop a taste for godly living only by intentionally putting into place practices that equip us to live below our means. We develop a taste for God’s standards only by disciplining our minds, hands, money and time. …
Third, we find lack of mercy (“neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy”). Refusing to be the merciful neighbour (like the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25), leads to egregious sin. … God calls us to be merciful to others for our own good as well as for the good of our community. Our hearts will become hard to the whispers of God if we turn our backs on those who have less than we do.
Fourth, we find lack of discretion and modesty (“they were haughty and committed abomination before Me”). Pride combined with wealth leads to idleness because you falsely feel that God just wants you to have fun; if unchecked, this sin will grow into entertainment-driven lust; if unchecked, this sin will grow into hardness of heart that declares other people’s problems no responsibility or care of your own; if unchecked, we become bold in our sin and feel entitled to live selfish lives fuelled by the twin values of our culture; acquiring and achieving.
You might notice that there is nothing inherently sexual about any of these sins: pride, wealth (mean spirited), entertainment-driven focus, lack of mercy, lack of modesty. … Sexuality encompasses a whole range of needs, demands and desires. Sexuality is more a symptom of our life’s condition than a cause, more a consequence than an origin. … Sin is progressive.”
There are certain issues that could be expanded further, for example, the ‘abundance of idleness’ associated with unemployment is also an area where sin can thrive.
In reading through the above excerpt, did you get the feeling that the issues described could equally apply to any current city, influenced by western culture? From my perspective, there’s not much difference, in a morality sense, between modern New York, London, Paris or Sydney as compared to Sodom.
Now, one more sobering quote from Rosaria’s book:
“The example reveals that God is angrier at the religious people of Jesus’ day than the inhabitants of Sodom. Jesus says this to the people in Capernaum:
Matthew 11:23-24 (NIVUK): ‘And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’
Jesus tells us clearly that had Sodom seen God’s power manifested before them as Capernaum had, they would have repented and lived. Jesus’ injunction that God is more greatly grieved by the sins of those who claim to know him than by those who know him not, struck a chord for me.”
The reason I’ve added the above quote is that more and more church leaders are putting forward views that are not fully aligned with Scripture; often, the erroneous explanation put forward, is that the words in Scripture were for a different culture, a different time – they say – ‘we’ possess superior knowledge, and we now ‘know’ what’s right for our time and most agree. Has the Holy Spirit become a silent voice, to these people?
I don’t think there has been a time like ours, when the views of Spirit-filled Christians are being rejected in their own churches.
In Romans 8:5-8 (NIVUK), we read: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.“
Now, another set of relevant verses, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIVUK): “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
The next lot of verses to look at is, 2 Timothy 4:1-4, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather round them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
If we look at these verses and reflect at what is happening in our world, you may be left with the view that in this age, people have become rampant lovers of themselves (the startling rise of the ‘selfie‘ and similar social media activities). Yet, thinking about this – it’s more love of the ‘celebrity’ person they want and dream to be; often, I feel, they are not satisfied with their current situation. I think this is a very different situation to all the previous difficult times that the world has experienced in the last two thousand years.
Another point, is that there are now, many ‘Christian’ (so-called) teachers who are preaching myths to match popular opinion, that is, deceptive views that their audiences want to hear.
On a different but related issue: I was interested in the arguments put forward by a number of social commentators, in support of the ‘Yes’ vote, regarding the recent national referendum in Ireland on gay marriage. In general, God was left out of the debate, and the focus was more on compassion, and the desire to let people live their lives as they saw fit because life was all too short. And, it is, however – eternity is a lot longer – and that’s where we should focus our attention.
What is sad, is that the Catholic Church in Ireland is no longer seen as the voice of authority on moral issues for the majority of people; manly due to the horrific child abuse cases. I can’t help feeling that if biblical principles were followed in their dealing with child abuse offenders and proper support of their victims then it could have been a very different outcome regarding the public’s view of the Catholic Church.
Now, to put all of this together, I think we are in the age of the ‘last days’, yet I have no idea of how long it will last before Jesus returns.
In Matthew 24:10-14, 32-33 we hear Jesus say: “At that time (the last days) many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” … “Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
In summary, when we see all these things: cities full of proud people, lovers of themselves, unforgiving, and demonstrating a lack of self-control, that is, all the characteristics of Sodom, which can now be seen in cities like New York and London (and, remember sin is progressive, it would have taken some time for the number of righteous people in Sodom, to fall below 10); then we will know that Jesus’ return is near.
Oh, perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier; these are some of Rosaria’s opening statements in her book: “When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. … At the age of 36, … Christ claimed me for himself, and the life that I had known and loved came to a humiliating end.”
It’s a good book, just based on the little I’ve read; I understand that the last half of the book may not be as inspiring as the first half because Rosaria comments in support of her views, such as the Reformed Presbyterian (RP) denomination, could be too heavily weighted by her personal situation. One thing I didn’t know is their (RP) adherence to ‘a cappella’ psalm singing (re worship music) to the exclusion of all other music. Their biblical reasoning behind this view did not convince me.