Matthew Vines, the self proposed “gay Christian,” in his book, God and the Gay Christian, argues that gay people in committed relationships is not ungodly or unbiblical. This is to say that Vines believes that it’s okay–biblically warranted even–to be homosexual, so long as you are in a monogamous relationship. His book argues this point by unpacking what he believes are the only six passages in the Bible that deal with the issue of homosexuality.
One of these passages is the well-known story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 19, the tale of two cities that were totally obliterated because, according to God, “their sin [was] exceedingly grave” (Gen 18:20). Vines essentially asks, “What is the real sin of Sodom?” And his answer is that it was inhospitality, not homosexuality. It was, “Gang rape, not sexual attraction” (65).
Vines concludes this by considering the backdrop of the passage, which is rooted in previous chapters like Genesis 18 that portray the “hospitality of the holy man,” as John Calvin puts it. Vines writes that “Abraham was a model host” (61). And to be clear, he was. Abraham was eager to bless his guests. He offered them water, food, and shelter. And the food was the very best he had to offer. He even offered to wash their feet.
This hospitality is ultimately contrasted with Sodom’s inhospitality. Abraham represents a nation that displays God’s name to the world and Sodom represents people that don’t.
Vines, therefore, is right. The context of Genesis 19 is about hospitality. This fact is inescapable. It’s further supported in that Lot, the only “righteous” person in Sodom, essentially mimicked Abraham’s hospitable actions when the guests entered Sodom in Genesis 19:1-3. As one commentator puts it, Abraham, and therefore Lot, was “generous, humble, and cooperative” (Wiersbe, Be Obedient). He displayed an immaculate picture of what it means to be a good host. And this, according to multiple scriptures, is something that is important to God:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb 13:2).
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31).
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
Thus, Vines’ conclusion to the questionable act in Genesis 19:5 that details the men of Sodom wanting Lot to bring out his two male guests so that they could “have relations with them” is not an event that describes the sin of homosexuality, but the sin of inhospitality. And, according to Vines, it cannot be any other way.
However, while I agree with Vines in his suggested context of Genesis 19, I disagree with the conclusion of his interpretation of Genesis 19. Vines is correct in his assessment that the sin of Sodom is inhospitality, but he is incorrect in stating that homosexuality is not a part of the inhospitality.
This is because homosexuality, and really any kind of sexual immorality, is really the fruition of inhospitality. This is to say that any form of sexuality outside of God’s design of marriage between one man and one woman is inhospitality at it’s worst.
You see, if hospitality is exemplified by Abraham in being selfless, then inhospitality is exemplified by the men of Sodom in being selfish. And their selfishness manifested itself in their desire to exploit other men to fulfill their immoral desires to have homosexual sex, which is inhospitality at its worst, because such an act seeks to engage in sexuality in a way other than how God designed it.
And this is true with any form of sexuality outside of biblical marriage. Think about it. It’s impossible to be involved in any kind of “hospitable sexual immorality.”
Take adultery, for example, which is sexual intercourse between a married person and someone he is not married to. This is inhospitable insofar as it takes another man’s wife or another woman’s husband (or even an unmarried person) and exploits that person for his or her own selfish pleasure.
Or take pornography, the act of watching others engage in pre-recorded sexual activity. Pornography is a business rooted in the exploitation of women held against their will, manipulated to perform sexual acts with money or force. Therefore, when a person views pornography he essentially supports human trafficking, or the enslavement of women. This is inhospitality at its worst, because it takes people and exploits them to the lowest level of humanity in order to receive a few moments of filthy pleasure.
And what about lust? One doesn’t even need to participate in the act of adultery or the viewing of pornography to be inhospitable to another person. The simple act of lust is inhospitable, too, because it takes a mental image of a human being and exploits it for one’s personal pleasure.
Homosexuality fits this bill as well, which is why Genesis 19:5, while certainly about inhospitality, is also about homosexuality. When a man has sex with another man or when a woman has sex with another woman, those men and women are exploiting one another for selfish pleasure in a way that it different than God’s definition of sexuality. Homosexuality doesn’t have to be “gang rape” for it to be sinful. It’s sinful because it takes a human being and exploits him in a way that is inhospitable to God, even if both parties consent.
This may not be a part of the immediate context of Genesis 19, but it is certainly part of the transcendent context of the Bible, for Genesis 19 operates under the banner of the creation story which details God’s design of sexuality, which is hetero, not homo (Gen 2:18-25).
Therefore, while I can agree that the sin of Sodom is rooted in inhospitality, I cannot agree that it has nothing to do with homosexuality, because homosexuality is a deviation from God’s definition of sexuality, meaning that it exploits people for selfish pleasure. And this is inhospitality at its worst.