Day 7: Sodom’s Sin Wasn’t Sexual

iI am blogging my way through Neighbors & Wisemen for Lent. Today we are in chapter 7. Neighbors & Wisemen

The final sentence hits you hard.

“True hospitality pushes past what we can afford to give up and makes deposits in accounts we can never lose.”

It is truly humbling, and a bit disturbing, to be in a hospitality culture. When you ,as a visitor, are given the first, the best, the most  – even though you know there was great sacrifice in oder to provide it – it can be upsetting.

What was eye opening for me when I began to travel internationally was to see this kind of hospitality and to recognize that this foreign hospitality was far more like what I read about in the Bible than the customs of my U.S. American culture.

The irony is that we were bringing the gospel to them. That felt weird at some level.

The line that hit me the hardest in this chapter was not about hospitality however. It was

“How could I possibly compete with the threat of eternal damnation?”

Which is a really good question.

How can you compete with the threat of eternal damnation?

The answer is that you can’t. It is a trump card of sorts. It holds great power in our imagination.

 

Give Me That Old Time Religion

I love the Bible. Or at least I thought I did until I began to study it.

Take hospitality for instance. When most people hear Sodom & Gomorrah then think of a sexual act.  But there are two interesting things in the Bible about Sodom – one is in the story itself and one comes much later.

In the story itself, you see that the whole scenario is set up by a lack of hospitality. Lot will not leave the visitors in the town center as the sun sets. Lot insists that these strangers come to his home.

This sort of thing is shadowed in the New Testament when Jesus famously talks about the sheep & the goats of the final judgement. I needed a place to stay and you gave me one. You took me in. 

So I ask myself a simple question: am I like Lot going into the city center to see if anyone needs a place to stay?
The answer, unfortunately, is no.

Then there is the other part of the Bible where the prophet – speaking for God – explains what God’s problem with Sodom & Gomorrah was.

Ezekiel 16:49 says

“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.”

Ouch.

But wait… I thought their sin was … ya know…  

That’s the odd part of the story. That night the men of the village surround Lot’s house and threaten to violate his guests. He is SO hospitable that he even offers his own daughters in order to protect these visitors. This is a kind of hospitality I have no frame of reference for.

So I have to ask myself a second question:
Am I, as Ezekiel 16:3 outlines,

  • arrogant?
  • overfed?
  • unconcerned?
  • not helping the poor and needy?

Unfortunately the answer to all four of these is yes.  I have Sodom’s sin problem.

I thought Sodom’s sin problem was … ya know …

No. It turns out that homosexuality is not Sodom’s sin.  Well that is convenient!  Are you telling me that in the richest country the has ever existed – where we have an obesity problem … and a Bible in every hotel room … that Christian preachers are more concerned with something that never happened that with what the Bible says was the real problem?

Yes. We make Sodom’s sin one of sex that never happened rather than the lack of hospitality and care that we as affluent Americans so often imitate.

At least we are going to heaven. After all, we have the gospel and we take it to them. 

 

No, unfortunately something odd has happened where our gospel has so often not compelled up to go out in the city center and make sure that everyone has a place to sleep – but instead we put our energy into

A) preaching against others’ sin and

B) going to another country to tell them why they should believe what we do.

 

It is an interesting little knot we have tied for ourselves.

 

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11 comments
BobHyatt
BobHyatt

Not to take away from your point about hospitality, but in reference to Sodom, it's a both/and, not an either or. "7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." Jude  7

bushofears
bushofears

You're right, of course, but, if I'm being honest then I have to say that I am not going to go down to my nearest city and try to make sure that everyone has a bed for the night. I have neither the resources nor the skills commensurate to the task. And the thought of it is terrifying! I won't give up everything that I have because that would be sacrificing my children's lives on the altar of the needs of others and I'm unwilling to do that. So, how do I respond? Is tithing and giving money to charities that do have the skills and resources and who need my money a sufficient response? Or does that act somehow serve to create a comfortable distance between me and the real people on the ground?

MickyScottBeyJones
MickyScottBeyJones

“True hospitality pushes past what we can afford to give up and makes deposits in accounts we can never lose.” - Tony Kriz

 

Thank you, @Bo Sanders  for pointing out these words. Probably one of my favorite in the book (and by favorite I mean I love it and hate it at the same time). I experienced that sort of hospitality in Rwanda and I have experienced it some here in America but I do not know how to do it myself. I finally have eyes to see and ears to hear that I need to learn it though. 

 

And the rest of what you wrote....YES. THAT. I confess those sins too. I confess. I repent. I want to live differently and it is very difficult as a Westerner to figure out how to do that. Maybe later when I have some more time I'll tell you about my friend Pastor Lambert from Butare Rwanda and a conversation we had about a beautiful hotel on the shores of Lake Kivu. It relates.

amandabrown427
amandabrown427

@tonykriz Shoot! I have been getting a lot of these "gut check" moments lately. The Holy Spirit's conviction is a blessing and a curse! ;-)

dangarvin
dangarvin

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

 

 

kenalto9
kenalto9

Turns out the priest and the levite that left the man in the ditch for the samaritan to help were hurrying past on a mission to albania? Arrogant (less than I used to be, but yes) Overfed (yes) Unconcerned (Well, not concerned enough to give up everything I have to help others) Not helping the poor and needy. (Like to think I do my bit, but I do not give alms to all that ask, do not go the extra mile.)

 

Tony talks a fair bit in the chapter about the Albanian host and his young son who are outside the door, not letting the mob enter. Some moving stuff there about how this young man is learning a great lesson from his father about hospitality that costs. The scene ends with the missionaries managing to get out and drive away, disaster apparently averted. I couldn't help thinking there were going to be repercussions in that community long after there were no Americans in sight.

 

At least Tony wound up learning something from the experience, and so can we.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@BobHyatt look at the original passage again - the sin was the threat of sexual violence - not homosexuality. Lot was gunna throw his daughters out there! We read our own prejudices back onto that passage ... -Bo

kenalto9
kenalto9

 @bushofears You articulate the horns of the dilemma very nicley. Doubt that many of us are going to feel Mother/Christ/Spirit's call so profoundly that we will preach naked in the street for three years or leave our wife unburied to keep pronouncing our oracles. So I think we are going to have to try to keep living in the tension of realizing that our tithing and charity is not enough and take what smaller opportunities do come to us to shrink the comfortable distance between ourselves and the poor.

 

Bo's post has us pondering repentance, and at the risk of sounding trivial I wanted to come back with a very small example from my own life. At a time when I had to confront just how pervasive selfishness, greed and fear were in my own life I kept on beating myself up with the selfishness - but that doesn't do anything to change it. But I found one small, anonymous opportunity to give - in grocery stores in BC you can by a $2 coupon at the checkouts that goes to buy produce for foodbanks. I began to buy one every time I shopped - no big thing, but after a while I was no longer paralyzed by the fact I never took the opportunity to give. 

 

Repenting isn't just regretting, it is turning around and walking back to God. Sometimes baby steps are all I can manage.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @dangarvin I don't know if you ever read 'Blue Like Jazz' but there is this chapter where the author wants to hold up a sign that says "I am the problem"  

 

It reminded me of your "We have met the enemy and he is us"  :)   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @kenalto9 Love your last line "At least Tony wound up learning something from the experience, and so can we."   

That is the hope I guess.   -Bo