What Jesus said about Sodom

I originally published this post a while back on my Wordpress blog. As I move content over to the new site, I'm going to periodically highlight certain posts. Here's another one.

I have been teaching on homosexuality at my church lately, and my last post was information that I recently presented to our adult Bible class. In our conversation about this text last Sunday morning, a good friend reminded me about what Jesus said about Sodom. Jesus mentions this city in four texts, three of which are rather shocking. In Matthew 10 Jesus sends his disciples out to all the towns of Israel to share the news about him. Here is Matthew 10:11-15 (parallel to Luke 10:5-12), where Jesus compares the cities of his time to Sodom and Gomorrah:

Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave. As you enter the house, give it greetings. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town!

Here is Matthew 11:20-24, in which Jesus rebukes certain cities for not believing in him:

Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!

What is striking about these passages, of course, is that Jesus presents Sodom and Gomorrah in a positive light. These cities in which Jesus ministered, the people to whom he taught his message, had rejected him and did not believe. Consequently their condemnation was sure and certain. If Jesus had gone to Sodom and ministered there, those people would have believed. Indeed, Jesus predicts what might be called mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah in the coming judgment.

This has direct application to the Church's attitude towards homosexuality. Christians routinely disconnect from homosexuals mentally, emotionally, and socially, assuming them to be outside the reach of God's mercy. It is more accurate to say that Christians have wrongly placed them there because of our own inability to face their behavior and engage with them as individuals. There is no sexual activity, homo or hetero, that prevents a person from experiencing God's grace and mercy in Christ. It is only unbelief which does that.