Sodom or Rome: Which Will it Be?
Mark H. Ballard, PhD
December 15, 2022
On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went before Congress and delivered his famous speech in which he referred to December 7, 1941, as “A Day that (would) live in infamy.” The actions of two United States executives on Tuesday December 13, 2022 may well be more dangerous to the existence of the nation than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While the tragedy of Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” was indeed grave, the Japanese attack united Americans to fight enemies outside our country. However, the actions of President Joe Biden and Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, on December 13, 2022, proved to be an attack on God’s design for His creation and will serve to only divide this country further. Indeed, this second December day of infamy may prove to be the undoing of the United States.
On Tuesday, President Biden signed the so-called, “Respect for Marriage Act” into law. Far from demonstrating respect for marriage, this bill redefines marriage in such a way that is an affront to the Creator. In addition, the bill lays the groundwork for persecution of Americans who hold to the Biblical definition of marriage, i.e., one man and one woman united in an exclusive covenant relationship.
Also on Tuesday, Governor Phil Scott signed the so called, “Reproductive Liberty Amendment”, making abortion on demand to the moment of birth a “right” guaranteed by the Vermont state constitution. While Vermont is a small state, a careful analysis of the history of the last 100 years will demonstrate the vast influence this small state and its political leaders have had on the direction of the US. The names Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy are well known for the influence on the Democratic Party, the Senate, and the nation. Additionally, Vermont was the first state to recognize “civil unions” between people of the same sex, paving the way for the “Respect for Marriage Act.” Now, Vermont is the first state to enshrine abortion on demand to the moment of birth in its state constitution. It may be for this reason that the Lord chose Vermont to be the birthplace of Northeastern Baptist College.
How should followers of Jesus respond to the Tuesday December 13, 2022 actions of President Biden and Governor Scott? This question has served as a focus of prayer and reflection in this writer’s mind and heart over the last few days. Through my times of prayerful contemplation, two countries and two individuals from the past have surfaced as examples. I offer them for your consideration today.
Sodom or Rome
The two places that have continually been on my mind and in my prayers in these difficult days, are Sodom and Rome. Both places are known as morally bankrupt societies. In His conversation with Abraham the Lord Himself said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me.” (Genesis 18:20-21) Abraham immediately begins to intercede for the nation because his nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom. The Lord agrees to not destroy Sodom if there are just ten righteous people living in the city. However, in the next chapter we see the end of the story. “Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.” (Genesis 19:24)
There is no question that evil reigned in Rome as well. Much could be said of the political, financial, social, moral, and spiritual evils of first century Rome. In fact, in his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul warned of the rampant evil, including, but not limited to, the evil of Sodom. Consider a few descriptors from this chapter. “Professing to be wise they became fools…exchanged the truth of God for a lie…worshiped the creature rather than the creator…God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…being filled with unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness…backbiters, haters of God, violent…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:22-31) Despite all this evil, first century Rome survived. In fact, the Roman Empire lasted in some form for hundreds of years.
What made the difference? Why was Sodom destroyed and why did Rome survive for many more years? Having considered these two places and begun asking myself the “why” question, my contemplation shifted from two places to two men.
Lot or Paul
It is easy to think of Lot as an evil sinner. However, the Bible paints a different picture of Lot. Certainly, he exhibited selfishness when his uncle Abraham gave him a choice of land, and he chose the best grassland for his herds. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that despite his faults, which we all have, Lot was a “righteous man.” In a warning passage, Peter reminds his readers of Sodom’s destruction and Lot’s deliverance. Having described Sodom’s destruction he then described Lot, “and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).” (2 Peter 2:7-8) Lot was a righteous man.
Lot was indeed a righteous man, but he was a righteous man who evidently attempted to simply keep his head down and ended up compromising with his culture. While Genesis 19 certainly reveals Lot was known in his city, there is no evidence that Lot attempted to influence his city. Peter indicates that Lot “tortured his righteous soul from day to day” but he says nothing about Lot influencing his culture. In fact, when it came time to leave the city, Lot could not even convince several members of his own family to join him in departing. Evidently, he simply kept his head down.
Lot not only kept his head down, when push came to shove, he actually attempted to compromise with the evil men of Sodom. When the angels came under the protection of Lot’s house, evil men from the city came and demanded that Lot give the angels over to them for their sexual pleasure. The Bible describes Lot’s compromise. “So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man, please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish.” (Genesis 19:6-7) Though Lot was a righteous man, he moved from keeping his head down to compromising two of his own daughters.
As noted above, Paul lived in the evil Roman Empire. Wickedness prevailed in first century Rome, as we observed from Romans 1:22-31. While Paul lived in a similar environment as Lot, his response to the pervasive evil was quite different. Paul refused to keep his head down. He would not compromise with the culture. This is clearly observed in his three recorded missionary journeys. When he was in Athens, we read that “his spirit was provoked within him when he saw the city was given over to idols.” (Acts 17:16) He would not compromise with the Athenians. Nor did Paul protest their idolatry. Rather, Paul engaged people in the marketplace and eventually in the Areopagus, with the Gospel of Jesus.
After leaving Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth. This city was known for its sexual immorality. In fact, later Paul wrote back to the church describing some of the wickedness he observed while among them. Note his words, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” How did Paul deal with the Corinthians? Did he keep his head down? Did he compromise? Did he organize massive protests? No. By his own testimony Paul stated, “For I determined not to know anything among you except, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) The effect of Paul’s approach is obvious. Consider his words following the description of Corinth’s immorality. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (2 Corinthians 6:11)
Sodom or Rome: Which Will It Be?
Tuesday December 13, 2022, may well be the new “Day that will live in infamy.” The signatures of President Biden and Governor Scott on that day clearly demonstrate that the United States has arrived at a new day of wickedness. God will not be mocked. The evil of our day may very well be the undoing of this increasingly divided nation.
How should followers of Jesus respond? How will we respond? Will we be like Lot and choose to keep our heads down and/or compromise the truth? Will we instead choose to respond with angry protests? Or, will we respond like Paul? Will we actually prioritize sharing the Gospel with every person in our nation, knowing the only hope is “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”?
As for me and Northeastern Baptist College, we will not keep our heads down. We will not compromise. Nor, will we organize angry protests. Rather, we will do what we have been doing since our founding. We will train students to speak the truth in love. We will send them out week by week to the harvest fields of Northeast, sharing the life changing Gospel of Jesus.
God blessed Paul’s work, though it was not easy, with spiritual fruit that had a part in “turning the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6) In just under four years the Lord has used the students, staff, and faculty of NEBC to see at least 729 people come to Jesus. If we remain faithful in these evil days, we will continue to bear fruit. You can join us in this effort. Reach out and let me share with you how you can get involved. (firstname.lastname@example.org)