I’ve Changed My Mind, Sodom is About Inhospitality

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.

Comments

  1. says

    I believe the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was about
    inhospitality,
    and immorality,
    including homosexuality.

    Scripture makes this clear.

    The look on their countenance witnesses against them, And they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves. -Isaiah 3:9

    And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. -2 Peter 2:6

    As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. -Jude 7

    David R. Brumbelow

  2. David S. Holt says

    Re “the sin” of Sodom, see Ezekiel 16:49-50

    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. [NIV]

    This is in the midst of a very graphic chapter where the Lord is chastising Jerusalem for “her destable practices” (vs. 1) and calls Sodom Jerusalem’s “younger sister” (vs. 46). The Lord’s description of Sodom here in Ezekiel reminds me of Romans 1, where the sin of unbelief leads to all kinds of gross immorality. Ezekiel seems to indicate that Sodom did not start out with “detestable” practices but rather ended up there after starting with what we today sometimes call “lesser” sins. (As we’ve probably all been taught, little problems/sins become big ones if they’re not dealt with promptly/properly.)

    Were the natives of Sodom inhospitable? Yes, that’s what the Lord says in Ezekiel 16:49. Was that their only sin? No, as stated in vs. 50 of that same chapter.

  3. says

    First of all, any rudimentary student of the Bible will be able to tell you that the Ezekiel passage refers to Samaria, the capital of Israel in the most unflattering term available – as Sodom. Otherwise, how else can it be the “younger sister” of Jerusalem. Besides read all the other allusions in the prophets to the sister cities and their lewd behavior and the context is clear that this is not a reference to the historical cities of the plain in Abraham’s day.

    But setting that aside, even if “the sin” of Sodom was a lack of hospitality worthy of a fiery destruction, that only makes the homosexual case worse. If God’s most destructive punishment is reserved for people who lack hospitality, what does that say of inhospitable people here in the US? Looks like any city that doesn’t provide free lodging is headed for the hot place in a handbasket pretty quick.

    In other words, by making the sin much worse, it makes God’s judgment that much more harsh. So if God destroys cities for being inhospitable, what is he going to do to people that commit acts that are much worse?

    • Dave Miller says

      Rick, your comment bubbles with self-assurance and arrogance, but I’m not sure it reaches the same level of accuracy.

      A “rudimentary” student of the Bible might see that all of Ezekiel 16 is directed toward Jerusalem. In vere 46, Jerusalem’s older sister was identified as Samaria and the younger sister was identified as Sodom.

      Derision is not effective as a hermeneutical tool. Neither is arrogance. I’m not sure that your interpretation is as definitive, authoritative and unequivocal as you seem to think it is.

  4. Stephen M Young II says

    I haven’t read the book you mentioned, but the gist of most books written from that perspective is to take each text that mentions or alludes to homosexual acts and isolate them from the others then look for possible contextual softenings to lesson the impact of the biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sinful and perverse.

    On the other hand, one can look at the Bible as a whole and find no place anywhere where homosexual practice is mentioned without a rebuke. Does that not say something?

  5. Greg Harvey says

    The men of the city wanted to “know” Lot’s guests. They rejected Lot’s daughters that had not been with men (though apparently were betrothed to sons-in-law?? ) Lot refers to their behavior as wicked.

    While I recognize that the Western concept of hospitality lies somewhere between serving sweet tea on the porch or in the parlor and staying in a clean bed at a hotel, I also recognize that non-Western concepts of hospitality have real teeth to them especially in what we now refer to as the Middle East. Remember the Taliban were willing to have us go to war with them rather than give up Al Qaeda to us after 9/11.

    But I still feel–and this includes spending time in a Muslim-majority culture where hospitality is a real thing–that it is a stretch to equate Lot’s use of the Hebrew “tarou” with inhospitality. That resh-ayin root very consistently means evil everywhere it is used in the OT and is so distinctive that it stands out as having a feeling of being from outside of the Hebrew language. The emphasis is also on righteousness and unrighteousness in Abraham’s plea for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah. And, finally, it is at the moment of grossly wicked intent that the “guests” pull Lot back into his own house and blind those outside of the house and set in motion the already existing plan to destroy Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the plain/Siddim.

    It is entirely a stretch to equate inhospitality with wickedness. If one is a subset of the other, then inhospitality is a subset of wickedness, not the other way around.

  6. Randy Saffell says

    It is, not only amazing, but also horrifying, sad, and blasphemous to preach anything other than the fact that homosexuality is against God’s law. Any preacher who preaches otherwise is simply not a preacher. I can understand why most homosexuals would want to be classified as “normal”, but they are not. They should complain to God if they do not like His laws.

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