The SAB makes an interesting point about verses 10-15, and it's something that I'm not really sure what to say about it. (Although I think I touched on it in a previous post, I don't think I shed much light on it there, either.) There is a concept that is mentioned in the Bible in various places that God sometimes judges not just individuals, but cities and kingdoms. I'm not sure how this works out from a larger perspective. I mean, if you were a good person who lived in Bethsaida that happened to have faith in Jesus, does that mean you would be judged as part of the city as Jesus seems to be saying here? Or is this sort of statement from Jesus even meant to be taken literally? Perhaps when he says Bethsaida will be judged, he's just saying that the majority of the people there will be judged, I don't know.
In the midst of this, the SAB asks, What was Sodom's sin? For me, the definitive answer to this question has always been Ezekiel 16:49-50:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.In other words, Sodom had a number of sins, most of which had to do with social justice, although the "abomination" mentioned may indeed have had something to do with homosexuality. Let me say, however, that when you read the story of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19, what you're seeing there is not typical homosexual behavior, but gang rape, which I hope anyone would see as being very, very wrong regardless of the genders of the parties involved.
A note on verse 16 is marked with "intolerance" and makes a statement about Pat Robertson. I think that statement makes a huge assumption: that Pat Robertson is speaking for God. I don't know that that's the case, and I've heard a number of things from Robertson that makes me doubt that.
The note on verses 25-28 is one worth discussing. Anyone following my writing closely will have noticed that I've generally avoided responding to the repeated question What must you do to be saved? Although it's a very important question, the page linked to is frankly too much for me to process in a simple way, as it's quite extensive and in no particular order. However, I do like this exchange that happens between the lawyer (in context, this isn't what we'd call a "lawyer" in the 21st century, but an expert on the works of Moses) and Jesus because I think it does manage to encapsulate some important principles. Is salvation about works, or is it about faith, or is it about saying the right prayers or something? I think the real substance of salvation is encapsulated here: Love God and love people. If you love God, then you will have faith in him. If you love people, then you will do works which are pleasing to God. I think the confusion of the SAB's page on salvation is from the fact that while salvation is in some ways a simple thing, it has many facets to it, so it can seem complicated if you over-analyze it.
Lastly, the SAB says that the story of the good Samaritan is probably the best story in the Bible. I don't know if I agree, but I'm certainly inclined to. And the thing to remember about the story is that the Jews didn't like the Samaritans, but a couple of people of high standing in the religious community don't do for the hurt man what a supposedly evil Samaritan did. So the message is twofold: You should always practice kindness towards people, even if they're strangers, and you shouldn't judge people by their ethnicity or what they may look like. Indeed, it's a very uplifting and positive message.