In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 7 (NIV).
Jude’s third example: Sodom and Gomorrah. Or, another place that’s the same. Let’s call it “my hometown.”
Over the weekend, I watched “Hillbilly Elegy.” It’s a new movie by Opie (Ron Howard) that tells the story of a man’s upbringing in a forlorn factory town on the Ohio/Kentucky border. It was a good movie; the book was even better. The theme of the movie/book was cultural crisis, and how one’s values are both shaped by it and reactive to it. The author of the book, J.D. Vance, was born in Kentucky, but moved to Middletown, Ohio as a child, because his family worked in factories there. But once the factories shut down, the hardscrabble people in the area were left in economic, social, political, and even spiritual crisis.
As I watched the movie, I thought Vance’s hometown of Middletown closely resembled the places where I spent my adolescent and teenage years. The same crisis-of-faith that the people in the movie were living through was the same one I saw in so many of the homes of my fellow students.
And then I read today’s verse, about Sodom and Gomorrah, and it hit me: that could be about my hometowns, too. Pick your pet sin. they’re all perversions of God’s order for us, of His intent for us to live in harmony and love with Him and each other. Sodom and Gomorrah were famously destroyed for their sexual sins, yet it was the stench of all their combined sins that made them offensive to God.
Sounds like our world today. Families, societies being torn apart by abuse, drugs, fornication, and a host of other seemingly irresistible temptations: are these not further perversion of what Jesus wants for us?
In Appalachia (and in McAlester, Oklahoma, Clinton, Iowa, and Mitchell, Indiana, too), you learn you should depend on your family when everyone else lets you down because they will. Yet even family can’t always ‘be there’ for you. So, who can?
You know the answer. In fact, answering anyone but Jesus would be tacit admission that, yes, your thoughts are a bit perverted as well. Maybe a little out of line from where you know God wants you to be.
Let’s hope there’s no fire and brimstone in our future. Surely the people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t realize they were all done for until it was too late. Maybe we should learn from them now lest someone else write another brutally honest lamentation about the places we come from.
For further reading: Deuteronomy 29:23, Matthew 10:15, 2 Peter 3:7, Jude 8
Have mercy on us, Jesus, for all the ways we’ve failed You.
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