Genesis 19–21, Psalm 7, Matthew 7
Sodom and Gomorrah! Even for those who have never opened a Bible, the names are famous—or, rather, infamous. They are synonymous with depravity and lawlessness. Yet what is perhaps more remarkable is that even the hero of the tale, Lot, does not appear to be very heroic. Indeed, looking back from our twenty-first-century vantage point, some of his behavior would be described as questionable at best. True, compared to his neighbors, Lot practically wears a halo, but that’s not really saying much.
And this is not just in the case of Lot. Many—perhaps most—of the protagonists we encounter in Genesis (and also in the biblical books that follow) say things and do things that might shock, embarrass, or even anger us. Polygamy, concubinage, drunkenness, and incredible violence all form part of the saga of God’s “faithful” leaders. We might be pardoned, therefore, for judging Lot and company fairly harshly, but as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7, looking back in judgment does little good.
Rather, we can note that the stories in Genesis, like this one about Sodom and Gomorrah, are really about the choices people make, both then and now. Lot, his spouse, and his neighbors all made fateful choices that resulted in consequences of one kind or another. The reason that judging others does little good is precisely because, in the end, it is what we ourselves do or do not do that really matters. Then what exactly should we do? Again, it is Jesus who answers that question in words that have been immortalized as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Now that is a daily choice worth making.
What have you read so far in the Bible that has shocked or disturbed you? What things happening today might be shocking or disturbing to Abraham, Sarah, or Lot if they could visit us?
Radical hospitality is a recurring theme in several parts of Scripture. How can you and your church community display such welcome in fresh, tangible ways?
God of welcome, bless us and others through us, that they might see you in all that we say and do, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Host at the heavenly banquet. Amen.
-The Rev. Dr. C. K. Robertson
Canon to the Presiding Bishop
of The Episcopal Church
New York, New York