Marriage, part 4: The sin of Sodom

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.

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10 Responses

  1. It’s too bad that this post hasn’t received any comments. Sorry, Joe, because there’s a fair amount to talk about. (And I’ve been too busy lately.)

    I think the problem hinges on a failure of humans to be intimate with one another — perhaps even a fear of intimacy. Intimacy here is a sacred closeness that is very aware of differences because they are up close and personal. In contrast, lust cares little about intimacy — and our society cares so much for lust that it has turned sex into a mechanistic drive for pleasure. As long as you get your pleasure fill, you could be making love with just about anyone.

    I’ve thought a lot about Jesus’s remark that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, to consume it on their lusts. Perhaps this reflects a certain way of seeing everyone, including God. When God doesn’t perform the way you want him to, you demand satisfaction — God is raped by our turning him into an object for our satisfactions. We need faith (and some questioning) simply because God is who He is, not who we might think we want Him to be. The same for a spouse — to demand sexual satisfaction from a spouse is to gloss over sexual difference. I think.

  2. I appreciate your comment, Dennis. I haven’t given much thought about the problem in terms of intimacy. Intimacy is perhaps what I’ve been arguing for all along, though (too bad I’m not going to re-write the 5th post – maybe another day).

    Given what’s been said, intimacy seems to be related to charity: loving what’s different requires that we know what’s different requires that we are intimate (revealing, as opposed to concealing) with one another. Perhaps intimacy is one step toward charity.

    It makes me think a little of the aprons Adam and Eve donned when they partook of the fruit: shame leads to concealing (as well as being somewhat self-absorbing), away from intimacy.

  3. I assume from the comments of both Dennis and Joe that you are of the opinion that it is not possible for two men or two women to experience deep. true and abiding love for each other on the same level as a man and a woman because there is a lack of difference in their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual make-ups? Am I understanding correctly?

    If this “diversity” is so important in achieving completeness within a marriage, would it not also apply to cultural, racial, social standing, economic and educational differences? Why then do we, as a church, counsel youth to minimize these other differences to make marriage more successful? Is not true charity ignorant of all differences? We stand before the Lord equally. It is only our obedience to His will and our acceptance of His gift of Atonement that creates the division of reward.

  4. Michael,

    You are understanding incorrectly. Indeed, charity must be available from one to all, in which case deep and abiding love should exist between all people, no matter sex.

    In response to your “diversity” question, culture, race, etc are not the same sorts of differences as sex – sex is a moral, fundamental difference, whose unity through sexuality is sacramental.

    That does not mean “we as a church” should counsel youth to minimize differences to make it more successful. I hope it’s obvious from these posts that diversity should never scare us away from marriage; instead, we should be committed to our marriage before these differences. I’ve never been encouraged to minimize my differences, but I think that’s a silly encouragement.

    Having said that, charity is not ignorant of difference. Charity is love of truth, and those differences – culture, race, etc – are part of our truth, so ignoring them seems to be anti-charity.

    Perhaps one thing to consider is that “equality” was never meant to make us the same.

  5. Perhaps one thing to consider is that “equality” was never meant to make us the same.”

    So, equality doesn’t mean equal? what dictionary are you using?

  6. Yes, good point. What I ought to have said was “equality” ought never to have meant “same”.

  7. 2+4+2+2=10
    3+3+2+2=10.
    Equal, yes.
    The same? No.
    I have struggled at times with this understanding, and I think I was making it more complicated than it had to be.

  8. I think a person can have charity without having intimacy, but I don’t think someone can have true intimacy without charity. Does this make any sense?

  9. […] was going over a five-part series on marriage written by the poster Joe O over there…and I found this a reasonable and thoughtful […]

  10. […] get far into my analysis of it, but Thinking in a Marrow Bone’s Joe O had a series devoted to thoughts about marriage. In the first part, Joe notes that difference is essential. Firstly in […]

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