The story of Sodom and Gomorrah doesn't make for the most comfortable reading, but if we'll pay close attention, we'll see God's justice and judgment are always balanced by His righteousness and rich mercy and grace. God is good and what He does is good--even when we don't understand we can rest in this truth.
I struggle with a lot of ‘small sins.’ Things like holding a grudge, gossiping about a coworker, complaining about my circumstances, or telling a little white lie. These actions seem so small that I often sweep them under the rug and act as if they don’t matter. After all, I’m not killing anyone or stealing someone’s car. However, our small sins often morph into bigger sins, and our big sins often morph into egregious ones.
This is what we see happening in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The people of Sodom probably committed relatively ‘small’ sins at first. Maybe they began by entertaining lustful fantasies about others. Perhaps they then acted out those fantasies and began sleeping with anyone they desired. By the time we reach Genesis 19, they have descended into acts that have become more and more wicked until it is now normal for the men in town to desire to rape the two angels who have come from Abraham’s house (Genesis 18:16, 19:5). Their sins have become so great that God has decided to destroy the city and everyone in it, echoing the judgment of the Flood (Genesis 6:7).
The idea that God would eradicate an entire city may seem harsh or even wrong to us. But we must remember two things: Every person in Sodom is guilty of sin and deserving of punishment; there are not even ten righteous people living there (Genesis 18:32). And because God is holy, righteous, and just, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished; to do so would go against His character. He always does what is good and right.
Yet God’s wrath and justice are not His only qualities we observe here. God is also rich in mercy for His people, and He shows mercy to the only righteous man in town, Lot, and his family by providing a way for them to escape the judgment of Sodom and leading them safely out by the hand (Genesis 19:16).
God does the same thing for us. Because of the sin nature we inherit from Adam and Eve, we deserve punishment and death. But God has mercifully provided an escape through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus (Romans 5:8-9).
However, while we are indeed saved and justified at the moment we put our faith in Jesus, we face temptation for sins both big and small for the rest of our lives. Lot and his family surely do, even after they leave Sodom (Genesis 19:26 & 31-32). Immediately following their narrow escape, Lot’s wife looks back and becomes a pillar of salt. The Hebrew word used for her action, nabat, refers to regarding something with favour or pleasure. Lot’s wife isn’t just glancing over her shoulder at the destruction; she is gazing upon her old life with favour. But her old life was unrighteous, and our righteous God cannot allow unrighteousness to go unpunished. So she is swept away with the rest of the city.
Though we cannot be condemned once we’ve been justified by Jesus (Romans 8:1), we must learn from Lot’s wife’s mistake and be careful not to look upon our old, sinful ways with fondness. The ‘small sins’ we commit in secret may not seem like that big of a deal, but they are a big deal to our just and righteous God. Yet He is also gracious and faithful, and He has mercifully offered us an escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Instead of gazing upon our old ways with favour, we must fix our gaze upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith who has defeated both sin and death (Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:24). It is only when we fix our eyes on Him that we are forgiven and freed.
Is there anything that the Holy Spirit has been bringing conviction about that you have been dismissing as ‘no big deal’? Spend some time asking Him what the way forward looks like in that area, then commit to stop looking back and thank Jesus that He enables you to step freely onto the new path He has shown you.