In Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus makes a startling statement about the ancient city of Sodom, known today, primarily, for it’s culture of sexual sin. Look at what Jesus said:
“Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Sodom was known for its sexual sin, and for its cultural dedication to homosexuality. Many Christians today use Sodom as an example of all that is truly evil. Yet, if we examine Jesus’ words very carefully we learn this truth: Being gay is not the worst sin a person can commit, not by far.
Now, this is not to say that homosexuality isn’t a sin. It is a sin. The Bible makes that clear. Some gay advocates say that since Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality he didn’t condemn it, therefore, it is now an acceptable practice. However, such advocates fail to realize there there is no sin in the Old Testament that was ever turned over and declared acceptable behavior in the New Testament. If is was a moral sin in the Old Testament, it remained a moral sin in the New Testament. And we live in what some theologians refer to as the New Testament era.
Have you ever wondered what it was that put Capernaum—and other cities—in such a terrible state that Jesus declared its judgment to be worse than Sodom’s? It was, to put it simply, their rejection of Jesus.
Sodom had one advantage that could have resulted in its salvation. It had Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot’s presence in Sodom was a condemnation of Sodom’s sins. Had Sodom responded rightly to the testimony of Lot, it might not have been destroyed (Genesis 18:22-33, II Peter 2:4-10). But Capernaum, and other cities, had a much greater advantage than Sodom did.
They had Jesus.
What was it about Jesus that made Capernaum and other cities so accountable in a greater way than Sodom? It was five things.
First, they had Jesus’ Presence. Being the Son of God, something greater than Lot was brought to Capernaum.
Second, they had Jesus’ Purpose. This was contained in his teachings and his resolute decision to go to the cross to die for their sins. He was their Savior and they rejected him. Lot died for no one.
Third, they had Jesus’ Power. Jesus’ power was demonstrated daily in his miracles and healing. Jesus even said once that if people did believe him they should at least believe that his miraculous works pointed to his identity (John 10:38).
Fourth, they had Jesus’ Preaching. Several times the people who heard him said that no one ever spoke like Jesus; that he taught them as one having authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:27, Luke 4:32).
Fifth, they had Jesus’ Promises. His promises were part of his teaching, but actually greater, because they were his affirmation of eternal life, available to anyone who would come to him and believe in him.
Sodom, and its surrounding communities, had none of these things. Thus, their accountability was less than that of the cities that Jesus preached in. Even Jerusalem was under threat for not recognizing their time of visitation. “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Sodom was judged for sexual perversion, and other sins. But the Israelite cities rejected Jesus. This is far worse.
There are two points of application that I’d like to make. First, you and I live in the age where Jesus has been made manifest to us in these five ways, and more, as we have more scripture than the ancients had. We have Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of the apostles and their disciples. We are accountable for all of it in a way that the ancients were not, who did not have these things. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). Rejecting Jesus is a far greater offense than homosexuality. Homosexuality is still wrong, and there is never a time when it is morally acceptable. But rejecting Jesus is far worse, because he is the Son of God, greater than all, and only he can save us and bring us to the Father (John 14:6).
Second, what does this say about those who do not carry the Gospel to others? If a city may be judged for rejecting Jesus, then what do we deserve if we fail to take Jesus to them? Jesus has entrusted us with the Great Commission. That means that we must use whatever tools, resources, and talents we have to help others come to know Jesus personally. We have the cure for sin. Dare we keep it to ourselves? Remember God's words to Ezekiel, "His blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:18).
Instead of getting hung up on a person’s homosexuality, let’s bring Jesus to that person. Help them to understand their sin, and how Jesus’ death and resurrection can free them from that sin, and many others.