With their destruction in fire and brimstone, Sodom and Gomorrah are associated with God’s judgement and Hell, and too many “Christian” signs saying “God hates fags.”
I won’t deny that God judges, but I do reject the weight we’ve placed on His judgement. The most quoted passage in the Bible by the Bible is Exodus 34:6-7. The God that revealed himself to Moses said He is, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
I said in a previous post, that the passage shows God’s character is weighted towards mercy. His judgement is to a third and a fourth while his mercy is to a thousand. God judges but his mercy has broken the scales.
So what does this have to do with Sodom and Gomorrah and by extension our understanding of God’s judgement and Hell? The story of Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t begin with its citizens’s demand to sodomize those two visitors but with a conversation between Abraham and God. When God tells Abraham of his plan to destroy the city, Abraham prays to God, asking if he is willing to spare the city on behalf of 50 righteous people. And God says he is willing. Abraham persists, asking God if he would spare the city for 45. God agrees. Abraham continues, how about 30? He’s willing. 20? He’s willing still. 10? And yes, God is willing to overlook the sins of an entire city for 10 righteous people.
That story does two things. First it shows just how far God is weighted towards mercy. He is absolutely willing to overlook our sins for the sake of the righteous. He takes no delight in the death of the wicked. Think of a man having to put his dog down because it hurt his children and others. Does the man delight in his pet’s death? If he puts his dog down at all, he does so as a last result and not without tears. That’s God’s judgement. He desires that none should perish.
But the story also gives us a test for those who claim to follow God. Abraham does not put out a lawn chair, open a six pack, and yell for the fireworks. He begs God, if at a possible, to spare the city! He begs God to overlook the wicked and vile acts of its people. Abraham isn’t simply praying for the righteous, he could have prayed that they simply be spared. No. Abraham, the friend of God, prays for the mercy of God to be abundantly poured out on those undeserving of it.
And If that’s God’s heart and the heart of the one God called his friend, shouldn’t we expect that to be the heart of those who now claim to be God’s friends?