To Build Up and To Destroy: Day 4

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The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the square.’ But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’ Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ But they replied, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

 Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city—bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’ So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up, get out of this place; for the Lord is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.’ But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, ‘Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.’ And Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!’ He said to him, ‘Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. – Genesis 19:1-27

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. – Ezekiel 16:49

I’ll be honest, I kinda hate everything about this story.

Lot has guests. The men of the city, say “hey, send out your guests so we can rape them!”

Lot’s response is “hey, guys! I have two virgin daughters! Rape them instead!”

It’s pretty disgusting.

Lot’s response is troublesome for our time and context and I need to believe that it would have been for his as well. However, the more problematic scenario, by his culture’s standards would be to let something bad happen to those that had been granted safety under his roof. To allow his guests to be harmed would have been so inhospitable, so shaming, that Lot was willing to offer up his daughters as an alternative.

Hospitality is a central value to Middle Eastern cultures even today. Once you offer someone a place under your roof, their needs and comfort become your utmost priority. It would also be a huge insult within the community to make threats toward a neighbor’s guests.

The writer of Genesis draws a direct correlation between this episode and God’s intention to destroy the city. This act of aggression towards a neighbor’s guests is despicable to God. To God’s credit, the destruction this time is limited to a city, not the entire of humanity.

Ezekiel describes Sodom’s sins as sins of greed, pride, and injustice. Greed really is the ultimate in inhospitable behavior. It is having more than enough to share and choosing to do otherwise. To live in comfort while others suffer goes against the value of hospitality, a value upon which the Bible seems to place a heavy emphasis. To be indifferent to someone’s suffering is just as bad as causing the suffering.

St. Ambrose is credited with saying the “if you have two shirts one belongs to you, the other belongs to the [person] with no shirt”. By the biblical standard, a people who hoard, a people who keep excess for themselves while others go without is an unworthy people. That should give those of us in the United States pause. I know how many shirts I have in my closet.

The world that must be built will ask us to go to great lengths to extend hospitality. It will ask us to go to incredible lengths to protect those to whom we have opened our doors. The world I imagine is one in which we take pride in how much we’ve shared, not in how much we’ve accumulated.

Sodom’s fate, I believe is the fate of all people who would prey on others or turn a blind eye to those being preyed upon. These are behaviors that must be purged.

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