by Matthew W. Bassford
The most famous example of homosexual activity in the entire Bible occurs in the early part of Genesis 19. There, two angels in human form come to the city of Sodom and pretend to be travelers seeking hospitality. The patriarch Lot invites them into his home, but at evening, the men of Sodom come to his door and demand that he yield up the travelers so they can rape them. Shortly thereafter, the entire city is destroyed by fire from heaven.
For millennia, students of the Bible have taken the point. Indeed, the word “sodomy” has passed into our language as a description of unnatural sexual activity. In recent times, though, this traditional view has come under attack.
As part of the campaign to destigmatize homosexual behavior, many have argued that the true sin of Sodom is instead defined by Ezekiel 16:49, where God reports that the iniquity of Sodom is the failure of its inhabitants to provide for the poor and needy despite having the resources to do so. The argument goes that this shows that the same-sex desires of the men of Sodom weren't the problem at all.
However, that isn't all that the Bible has to say about Sodom. In Jeremiah 23:14, God says that the people of Jerusalem sinned in the likeness of Sodom by committing adultery, walking in lies, and strengthening the hands of evildoers. More familiarly, Jude 7 testifies that the men of Sodom committed sexual immorality and perversions.
So what is the sin of Sodom? Is it hardheartedness? Adultery? Lying? Promoting wickedness? Homosexual lust?
The only possible Biblical answer is “all of the above”. As Genesis 13:7 says, the people of Sodom were evil, sinning immensely against the Lord. This teaches us something fundamental about sin. In the lives of the wicked, the problem is never just one isolated sin that they are committing. The problem is an entire life lived in rebellion against God.
In fact, this same truth is evident in the lives of those who practice homosexuality and defend their practice today. It's not like they are getting everything else right about following God and just have this one little issue. Instead, spiritual problems are evident everywhere.
Certainly, all of them call evil good. Almost all of them are indifferent to the biblical teaching about the role of women in the church. They don't teach the truth about what we must do to be saved. Many of them, perhaps even the majority, have no interest in obedience and only make the argument to show what hypocrites Christians are.
Homosexuality was definitely part of the problem in Sodom. However, the real problem was a heart problem, an unwillingness to submit to the authority of God. If this unwillingness is present in our hearts, the precise expression that it takes doesn't matter much. As Jude points out, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah provides an example of punishment by eternal fire, and that's where all of the disobedient are headed, whether their sin lines up precisely with Genesis 19 or not.