The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the most notorious stories of the Old Testament. Two neighboring towns highlight the epitome of what it means to rebel against God and to live in sinfulness. God’s anger boils against them, and God decides to destroy the cities.
God tells Abraham of the plan, and Abraham tries to intercede for the cities in order to save them.
“What if there are fifty righteous. Will you kill them along with the unrighteous?” he asks. God says that no, if there are fifty good people the city will survive. Abraham continues and is able to whittle God down to ten people. If there are ten good people in Sodom the cities will be saved.
God can’t find ten people, so he saves the only one there is, Lot and his family. Then the cities are destroyed by fire.
The shocking nature of this story has often served as a warning to do what is right. I think we in the United States have some things to learn from this story as well. There are things we need to correct, and oddly enough, it has nothing to do with homosexuality.
While there is the element of homosexual gang rape in the story, I think we would all agree that rape of any stripe is abhorrent and detestable. The sins of Sodom, however, don’t begin and end with this act of rape. They go much deeper, and are manifested in much more mundane, yet no less sinister, ways.
The prophet Ezekiel, in speaking to his own people said this in the name of the Lord, “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” (Ezek. 16:49-50).
In short they were arrogant, well-off gluttons who did not worry about the needs of others. It was so bad that when Lot invited angelic visitors into his house, the locals went against the hospitality ethic of the Ancient Near East and demanded that these strangers be given over to them to be sexually abused. Not only did they “not help the poor and needy” and not only were they inhospitable, but they sought to actively and brutally abuse the strangers among them.
This story issues a frightening warning to us, and not in the way that we often expect. Tens of thousands of Central American children are flooding across our border, seeking asylum from the frightening realities of poverty and gang violence. In their home countries, most of these young children will either be recruited by a gang and forced to take part in its violent ways, or they will be killed while trying to resist the gang. The situation has been worsening year after year.
It has gotten so bad that parents are willing to risk sending their children through Mexico with coyotes (illegal guides), who are known to be thieves and rapists themselves, on a journey that could very well claim their life. Think about that for a moment.
The best option these children have is to travel through foreign countries with untrustworthy criminals through a brutally hot and arid desert risking death by the elements or at the hands of the coyotes. That is the most hope they have. That is their best shot at a pursuing the rights that our Declaration of Independence call inalienable: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Their only hope is in risking it all to seek asylum in the United States.
What greets the lucky ones who make it here?
Angry, sign-wielding demonstrators telling the children to go back where they came from. A broken immigration system that can’t handle their petitions for asylum, and, therefore, a President who seeks to alter the rules to deport the children quickly without entertaining their pleas for asylum. Politicians who see this not as a humanitarian crisis but as an opportunity to one-up their political opponent: “See where his/her policy got us?!?!”
I have the feeling that if Sodom and Gomorrah has anything to say to us it is this, “Watch out, because your inhospitality is reaching a new low.” Not that I believe that God is in the business of destroying societies for their sinfulness, but as Paul says in Romans, the punishment of our sinfulness is being turned over to the sin itself and allowing it to run amuck within us (Romans 1).
I fear that a society that cannot even extend hospitality to frightened children seeking asylum is already seeing the consequences of our arrogant, self-absorbed gluttony. Sadly, the one’s paying the biggest price now, are tens of thousands of innocent children, sleeping alone, without their mothers or fathers, in a detention center somewhere in the US Southwest.