I have a friend who, when he was a young man, got caught doing something illegal in a sting operation. He and others were arrested in front of news cameras. Soon, everyone in his town knew what he had done. Years later, he said that as hard as that season was for him, it was also incredibly liberating. His secret sin was exposed. He no longer had to pretend he had his life together. He could confess his profound need for help.
We may choose to deal honestly with our own sin, or we may choose not to. But the story of the Bible is that God always deals with our sin. Unflinchingly. Justly. Completely.
Genesis 18:16-20:18 is a tough text. It is difficult because of what it teaches about morality in an increasingly amoral world. But even more, it is difficult because it shows us, in no uncertain terms, that God has wrath toward sin. God’s posture toward sin is anything but cavalier.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah behaved in ways that deeply offended the Lord. He sent a couple of angels to judge the city, and not even ten God-fearing people could be found. The people of these cities had willingly and willfully rejected God, serving their own sensual appetites to the peril of any who came to them for refuge.
Genesis 18 tells us God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was certain. He intended to destroy them. This is hard because it shows the power and intensity of the wrath of God toward sin. Harder still is the reality that God isn’t pouring out His wrath because He has lost His temper. His wrath flows from an unwavering commitment to perfect righteousness. The wages of sin, Romans tells us, is death (Romans 6:23).
It is a good thing to be unsettled and even offended by passages of Scripture like this because they require us to ask a revealing question: “What would I prefer Scripture to say instead, and why?” If we desire a god who turns a blind eye to sin, then we desire a god who is not fully just or holy.
If we minimize God’s wrath toward sin, we minimize the meaning of the cross. Consider what Paul told the church in Colossae: “God made us alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Sodom and Gomorrah remind us that God’s wrath is very real. But the Cross of Christ reminds us that His mercy is even greater. The cross parades our guilt and need for salvation before the watching world even as it secures our freedom.
Written by Russ Ramsey