The following is a translation of an article which appeared in the January 22, 1901 issue of Der Lutheraner, under the title “Wie es geschah zu den Zeiten Lot.” The author is Friedrich Pfotenhauer, who at the time served as a parish pastor and as president of the Minnesota and Dakota District of the Missouri Synod. Pfotenhauer later served as president of the Missouri Synod (1911-1935). Pfotenhauer’s words are a sober reminder that we must teach our children of the dangers and snares we encounter living in this fallen world. Even more, they are a message of hope in our Savior, whose blood covers all sin. – R.L.L.
“How It Happened in the Times of Lot”
In Genesis 18:20-21 we read that the Lord spoke to Abraham: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me.” What were the grave sins which were happening in these cities during the times of Lot? They were the most abominable vices against the Sixth Commandment. The inhabitants of these cities did not commit merely whoredom, but they also lived in unnatural and shameful lusts. Man acted shamefully with man, or one indulged the sensual desires alone, without the fellowship of a suitable person. These horrors cried to God in heaven for vengeance, and so “the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities” (Genesis 19:24-25). On the one hand, God did this to the whoring inhabitants to give them what was due. On the other hand, He did this to set up an example for the godless people still to come (2 Peter 2:6). And He did this for those who live in silent sins, who through self-defilement shame their own bodies, or who satisfy the desires of the flesh in unnatural ways. These may think that their sin is not so serious as whoredom, but they should know that they have arrived upon the last step of depravity. They should learn that God is a holy and jealous God. He is a consuming fire for all those who distort His holy institutions and so abominably shame the body, which God’s hand designed so delicately and marvelously.
God set this example of Sodom and Gomorrah in place for all times. Has the world taken this example to heart? The answer is clear: No. Read the prophets and apostles (Isaiah 3:9, Ezekiel 16:48-50, Romans 1:24-32, 2 Peter 2, Jude 7-8). You will recognize that with Sodom’s demise Sodom’s sin has not ceased. Yes, our Savior characterizes the last time of the world as downright sodomitic. His words are these: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot…so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28, 30).
The last days of the world are here. We live shortly before the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore according to the prophecy of our Savior, the generation of our days is a sodomitic one. Unnatural sins of every kind take the upper hand in shocking ways and corrupt thousands of young men and women. They become the worm-infested fruit, which falls prematurely. The vice of self-defilement wreaks such grisly havoc on body and soul that you can already see the remedies for the consequences of this sin being touted in all the newspapers and in the secret places of hostels and trains.
Like Lot, our congregations must raise their defenses amongst this sodomitic generation. Our Christians come into closer contact with the children of the world. They hear from them what they do, and they are aroused and enticed to various sins through the evil examples. Or where this does not happen, there the devil himself becomes all the busier. He arouses the sinful flesh, so that the young people step into all kinds of mischief by their own choice. The old evil foe knows that his time is short, so he does all he can to transform the entire world into Sodom and Gomorrah. Oh, what shame and vice must the all-seeing, holy eyes of God look down upon now, how now the cry is so great and the sins of the world so grave! God will not bear it for much longer. Soon He will come down for judgment and condemn the sodomitic world. And now sodomy has also penetrated its way into our congregations. Many among us have already fallen by this pestilence which prowls in darkness, this disease which spoils the day. They have lost the faith, their good conscience, and the divine sonship. They have also buried the health of their bodies and have become like hollowed-out trees. If God’s Spirit does not renew them, they will be useful for nothing, except to be chopped down and thrown into the fire of hell.
The danger which threatens our youth in this regard is too little recognized. Many parents deceive themselves, thinking that they have nothing to fear with their children. Or they are embarrassed to talk about these things with their maturing sons and daughters. What irresponsible shortsightedness! Our Savior already said that our time is just like it was in the times of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah. It is no wonder that many a victim of self-defilement complains, “Would that I had been warned! Then I would have refrained from such a sin, but neither my parents nor my pastor made me pay any attention. So I have sunk down step by step and now recognize that it is too late. What a horror I have committed!” There are those whom God has appointed to be caretakers and watchmen over the young people, who must give an account for them. Would that they recognize the seriousness of the time! Would that all preachers, teachers and above all, all parents, take seriously their office, so that as far as it depends on us, our youth lead a chaste and disciplined life and keep body and soul undefiled.
We have so much opportunity for warning and teaching. The preachers have confirmation instruction, the pulpit, the confessional, and the announcement. The teachers are in the school. Parents have home devotions where they can read the Scripture to their children, not to mention their daily contact and interaction. To be sure, this requires great wisdom, which we do not have in and of ourselves. But God desires to give it as an answer to our prayers. James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
So what do we say to our maturing youth concerning these things? We have a threefold answer. First we should say to them, that also their heart is by nature evil and inclined to all kinds of impurity, and that they live in a sodomitic world, in which all kinds of abominations are committed openly and shamelessly. Without vigilance, supplication, and prayer, they would certainly soon fall into temptation and snares. Secondly, we should rightly set before them the wrath of our holy God over all impurity and His disgust over all forms of self-defilement. The Lord looks with His great eyes into the most hidden corners and sees what happens. And He “is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet His sword; He has bent and readied His bow; He has prepared for him His deadly weapons, making His arrows fiery shafts” (Psalm 7:11-13). The lot of all impure is the pool which burns with sulfur, where their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched. And thirdly, to be sure we know that we do not make our children pious through threats of the law. The wrath of God only somewhat holds the members of the body within outward boundaries, but it does not give a chaste and disciplined heart. Only the Gospel accomplishes this. It is the power of God to save all who believe in it. Therefore we should set before our children God’s love in Christ Jesus above all else as their greatest possession. We should always remind them what wealthy, privileged, and blessed people they have become in Holy Baptism. You father and mother, say to your son or your daughter, “My dear child, forget not that your body is a temple of God, a beautiful and glorious house of God, in which the Holy Spirit lives. Therefore do not defile this temple, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit. See, my child, how your Savior has poured out His blood for you, and He has redeemed you from all impurity. Therefore fight the good fight of faith; grasp the eternal life, to which you have been called.”
When we often admonish our children in such an evangelical manner and call upon God to give our words power and lasting impression, they will be able to live in the middle of Sodom and lead chaste and disciplined lives. They will flee the lusts of youth. If they are already trapped in the vice of self-defilement, they can be rescued again and be made healthy in body and soul. The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians in the first Epistle in chapter 6, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral…nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God…And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Even as the Word of God made holy children of God out of the deep-sunken slaves of vice during Paul’s time, so our faithful Savior wills to free all those caught in Satan’s trap through his Spirit. His blood washes every mess of sin away, even as it did in Corinth. His good Spirit is able to work holy resolutions in those weakened by the vice of self-defilement, so that they can lead a chaste and disciplined life. He is able to set their feet on the narrow way, which leads to life. May none of these unfortunate people, who have come to a recognition of their confusion, despair of rescue. But let them entrust it to Jesus, the great physician, that He can heal them too. He is sent to preach liberty to the captives and release for those who are bound.
Jesus, faithful Savior, have mercy on us and on our children. Help us, that we be not condemned with the unbelieving world, but save our soul as you once saved Lot!
Take our hand, O sweetest Jesus,
Lead us in the pilgrim’s way,
That on paths both straight and narrow
We may go and not delay;
Keep us every snare eschewing,
Past ways ne’er with lust reviewing
Walther’s Hymnal, #264 translation ©2012 Matthew Carver. Used with permission.