What is the meaning of Sodom and Gomorrah? In the footnote for the verses in Genesis that describe the need to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, The New American Bible says this.
[18:20] The immorality of the cities was already hinted at in 13:13, when Lot made his choice to live there. The “outcry” comes from the victims of the injustice and violence rampant in the city, which will shortly be illustrated in the treatment of the visitors. The outcry of the Hebrews under the harsh treatment of Pharaoh (Ex 3:7) came up to God who reacts in anger at mistreatment of the poor (cf. Ex 22:21–23; Is 5:7). Sodom and Gomorrah became types of sinful cities in biblical literature. Is 1:9–10;3:9 sees their sin as lack of social justice, Ez 16:46–51, as disregard for the poor, and Jer 23:14, as general immorality. In the Genesis story, the sin is violation of the sacred duty of hospitality by the threatened rape of Lot’s guests.
While often the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is equated with homosexuality, it can often be the case that this simple interpretation became popular because it lets the rest of us off the hook. If we take a broader view offered in the footnote in the New American Bible, the confines ways were every human being is challenged in their relationship with God.
Certainly in recent days, the situation with immigration on the border particularly in Texas, has caught our attention. Large numbers of children, most certainly escaping harsh conditions in their own countries, are coming to seek freedom in United States. As can happen in such situations, the reality has sparked a wide variety of deeply held beliefs. There are those, perhaps even some of you, who view the large influx of children entering the country illegally, to be proof that the immigration problem in United States has become endemic. There are others who are concerned that no small amount of these children are escaping sexual trafficking, and they are concerned that due process be followed to guarantee their safety.
All of this should cause us to look at how well we treat the stranger and the alien. Jesus is very clear in the Gospels, and the law in the Old Testament makes a great priority the care of the foreigner. Parts of fruit falling from trees should be left for the alien and the foreigner. Joseph and Mary found themselves to be aliens in a strange land, when they fled from the violence that was occurring in Bethlehem.
While political discussions are best left for others, we cannot ignore the mandates of our faith. When it comes to the treatment of others, and the tremendous respect of their human dignity, there can be no compromise. In the Gospel of Matthew, he reminds us specifically that the way in which we treat others, is in fact, the way in which we treat Jesus himself. And so whatever political solution may be sought, the solution in faith must be one that above all else, upholds the human dignity of every person, legal or otherwise.
It is not simply with the case of immigrants that we run the risk of being like Sodom and Gomorrah. It can be easy for us to gloss over those types of welfare that are received by so many, corporations get big tax breaks to move to this location or that. Many of you file taxes get all sorts of deductions related to legitimate needs of owning a home or raising a family. These are entitlements. They are given by the government, to those who fit the definition for the reception of this type of welfare.
In fact, the type of welfare that is often disparaged makes up a relatively small amount of the federal budget. Again, the political questions are best left to others. It is not clear the best way to help people out of poverty and into a place where they can achieve what all desire, a place to have those basic rights of all human beings deserve: food, clothing, shelter, and health care.
The deepest challenge of the spiritual life is introspection. Gaining that appropriate self-knowledge which helps us to discover where we need a Savior is not easy. But as the references to Sodom and Gomorrah remind us in the Old Testament, we must never succumb to a simplistic notion of spiritual failure. We must all recognize that we need Jesus to be our Savior.