This post is the fourth in a five-part series of posts about – you guessed it – marriage.
To sum up my argument so far, I began this series of posts discussing differences and why we ought to value them. I then discussed that teaching children to value difference in others begins in the home, where two parents of different descent love each other for their differences (not to say, also, their similarities). Previous to this post, I argued that married couples engage in what I called a ritual of difference, wherein they realize a full expression of the infinity of their relationship – made up in part of their differences – and are better situated to have charity for one another, as well as for others. I would like to turn now to the sin of Sodom and draw all three posts together.
Many say that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. They often make this case using scriptures, such as the following: “I will therefore put you in remembrance…Even as Sodom giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh” (Jude 1:5, 7). Whether “going after strange flesh” means homosexuality or not, obviously Sodom was being condemned for sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that the sin of Sodom was instead inhospitality. As Ezekiel says: “this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread…, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (16:49). Placed in the context of how the people hoped to treat Lot’s guests, it seems like a real lack of respect and love for the stranger might have been the problem.
Though both arguments are said to conflict with one another, considering both as one argument might change the way we see marriage in a significant way.
Consider this: marriage, as I have argued, is that relationship in which we face the infinity of the other. I create with my spouse a relationship that goes infinitely beyond just me, because she (with her fundamental differences) is also part of it. Our willingness to face that infinitude (our humility and reverence) compels us to be charitable not only to one another, but to all others in whom we recognize differences.
But what if I am unwilling to face that infinitude? What if I only see my spouse as a caricature of what I think she is (or ought to be) and close the door on infinity? What if I love my spouse only insofar as she is like me? Do I learn charity? I cannot. And without charity, I fail to reverence difference – whether in my wife or in others. That failure can quite easily lead to inhospitality for the other. But it could also lead to sexual sin, particularly where my spouse becomes interchangeable when I find her too much of a “stranger” (too different) to love anymore.
Perhaps, then, the sin of Sodom is something else entirely: a lack of charity resulting from an inability (or unwillingness) to confront and love difference. Perhaps “going after strange flesh”, whether it be through either heterosexual or homosexual sin, goes hand in hand with “pride” and failing to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Rarely do you find one without the other. We may debate what the sin of Sodom really was, but perhaps we’re arguing straight through one another. Perhaps both sexual sin and inhospitality were symptoms of a greater sin: a lack of charity.
In the final post, I hope to tie each of the previous four together by discussing implications for marriage, for difference in marriage, and for difference in gender.