One even said that he felt weird dancing with his daughter at her wedding. It was just something they were taught growing up. It was something beat into them.
“Don’t smoke, cuss or chew or go with girls who do” was the motto. (Now I’m not saying those are the kind of girls I like to go with but those are the kind of girls I like to go with.)
It struck me as interesting that while I am of a generation that got to hear about the evils of dancing (it wasn’t that long ago that Baylor finally officially had dances instead of “foot functions”), the people I went to seminary with who are a good 10 years younger than I am would think this discussion about dancing was arcane.
Well, they wouldn’t have used the term arcane. They would have tilted their heads and said, “You people are old. We don’t worry about that.”
They weren’t brought up with this mindset about dancing being one of our pet sins. But that is what it is… a pet sin.
For some, it’s dancing. For others, smoking. It’s a sin that we can look at and say, “See! Look at those pagans. We aren’t them!”
That leads us to our passage today. To Genesis 19 and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
We tell stories from the Bible. There are lots of them but we really like to tell this one.
Because this story is all about one of our pet sins.
This story teaches us all about those evil homosexuals and when we pull out Romans 1:27 and add it to this, well, shoot, it’s plain to see that being gay is downright the worst sin of all sins.
We see that it was a great and wonderful thing that God rooted them out for it and destroyed them.
But what if the story wasn’t about that? What if it didn’t mean that to the people reading it? What if that wasn’t what the person who wrote it wanted us to get out of it?
See, I had this version of that story pushed on me my entire life. But I read something one day. I read the book of Ezekiel. Sure, Ol’ Zeke was a crazy man but he had some good stuff to say. And one of the things he tells us is why Sodom was destroyed.
In Ch.16, Ezekiel makes it pretty clear that they met their end because they were arrogant. They were overfed. They were unconcerned and haughty. They didn’t help the poor and needy.
I swear I never heard that explanation in any Sunday school growing up.
Because it’s easier to point to the “evil gays” and be thankful that we aren’t them. It’s a whole lot harder to read the actual explanation of the event because that might hit closer to home.
We like to focus on one thing that happened in that town but pass over the other things. What makes it really funny is that Zeke tells us that Sodom wasn’t half as bad as Jerusalem was during his time. He actually has the audacity to tell us that it will be easier on the children of Sodom in the end than on the people of Jerusalem because the Israelites had been worse. Much, much worse.
All of this wrapped up in the concept of hospitality.
The Old Testament meaning of that word is a little different than what it means today. This isn’t about who can serve the best tea or how fancy your napkins are.
Hospitality represented who you were to your community. How you treated each other, especially the foreigner and the outsider was a reflection of who your entire family was. We think it atrocious that Lot would want to hand over his daughters to the mob instead of the strangers but that is what hospitality meant to them in that culture. It would bring less shame on his house to have his daughters abused than to give over the foreigners.
This was Sodom’s shame. They cared so little for others that nothing was out of bounds for them. They cared so little for how they represented their community, their families, their God, that they would mistreat anyone for any reason as long as it benefited them in the moment.
This idea of hospitality focused on the whole of the people because, as we have seen often now, it was for the people of God because it directly reflected on God.
Compare that to our culture and how Christianity has embraced it.
We embrace folk religion. We say things to each other like “God helps those who help themselves”. Which not only isn’t in the Bible but is pretty much the opposite of who God helps.
This idea is not “social justice”. This is not an example of the empire of man taking and giving to whomever it wants. This is not a forced redistribution of wealth.
What makes this godly and important is the fact that it is volunteer, it is from the heart to God and his creation.
Take care of those who are poor and needy, not just physically but also spiritually.
Praise those who give out of their poverty.
Emulate those who practice humility.
Comfort the afflicted.
Don’t fall back on pet sins as an excuse to miss out on what truly matters in this world.
Keep it up even if the world tells you differently.