Sodom and Gomorrah #18 (Genesis 19:13)
I have now returned from the Italian Alps. So, this time the photo for this post is from there – for your enjoyment – and not, as normal, related to the story of the chapter. I hope you are ready to go back to the Bible and discuss morality in our story, the story of Sodom.
We will continue with verse 13 in chapter 19. As we have seen in verse 12, the angels are warning Lot and asking him to leave the city. We know that they did not have to give Lot any explanation. After all, Lot already knows they are God’s angels, and he will obey them with or without a reason. Still, they explain. They know that if a person understands the reason for an order, they will obey faster and better. This is a simple secret that many in command nowadays have forgotten. God’s angels remembered.
Is Morality absolute or relative?
During my years of travels, I have met different people from various cultures. Each culture has its own morals, habits, and customs. Some habits and customs acceptable in one culture can be unacceptable or even considered abomination by another. For example, while in some cultures telling lies is an acceptable behaviour (and when you are caught you simply shrug your shoulders and laugh) in other cultures it is a big shame to be caught lying. In some cultures, killing for the honour of the family is not only acceptable, but demanded; other places will consider it like any other murder.
Every time I encounter such a discrepancy, or when I see behaviours that deeply bother me – like the way women are treated by some cultures – I cannot help but ask myself if I am sure I am right, and whether morality should be judged relative to the culture, or whether it absolute and universal. The story of Sodom clearly gives us an answer. At least some morals are absolute.
The people of Sodom will be punished, even though they are not familiar with the laws of the Bible, maybe not even with the morals and behaviour code of the desert. Ignorance of morality will not save them.
The angels do not ask if the people of Sodom abide by the laws of their country or the laws of their city – the city of Sodom. It does not matter. The cry coming from the city is sufficient justification for the severe punishment they are going to face – the destruction of their city. In the words of the angels:
According to this verse, a sufficient criteria of moral judgement is that many people suffer in the hands of others, that many people cry and beg for God’s help because no human is going to help them. The prophets kept warning that it is how we treat others that God cares the most about and judges us by. To quote Isaiah (1:17). Justice and compassion is what God is asking of us:
Learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the wronged.
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow.
Is this the morals our society is built upon? Is that how WE see our duty to God?