There are few subjects touchier than the question of homosexuality and Christianity.
In recent years, in order to shift the portrayal of Christians as vicious homophobes, many mainline denominations have fully embraced homosexual practice as compatible with Christianity, as have some in “post-evangelical” circles, such as Tony Jones.
Given the enormous pressure to affirm and embrace homosexual practice, it can be really tempting to go along with it, or worse to give unsatisfying, pat answers to hard questions about Christian faithfulness and homosexuality.
So what do you do if you earnestly believe that God’s Word is true, and what it says about homosexuality is in fact the truth?
What if you truly believe that homosexuality is a serious sin as outlined in Scripture?
And what do you do if you believe it—and you’re gay?
Wesley Hill seeks to answer that question in Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. What qualifies him to do so?
It’s his struggle.
Washed and Waiting tells Hill’s story of seeking to be faithful to Christ while struggling with homosexuality; at the same time it provides an encouragement to gay Christians who are convinced that “their discipleship to Jesus necessarily commits them to the demanding, costly obedience of choosing not to nurture their homosexual desires” (p. 16).
Hill does a wonderful job of ministering to readers while at the same time strongly affirming the Scripture’s clear teaching on homosexuality. Throughout the book, he never relents on the point that homosexuality is a sin—a result of the fall of man.
And the hope offered to all who deal with same-sex attraction is the same that is offered to all who “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23): the gospel.
He describes himself as one who is “washed and waiting,” drawing upon imagery from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Romans 8:23-25. Those who put their faith in Christ have been washed, sanctified, justified and they wait eagerly for their adoption as sons and the coming of Christ’s kingdom in its fullness.
It’s this hope, seeing all of life in light of what Christ has done and who He makes us to be, where Hill finds the answer to the question of why can’t one be a practicing homosexual and a Christian.
Seeing life in light of the gospel—of confidence in the forgiveness of sins, of our frustration with our stumbling and pain in putting our sins to death, of belonging to God and to the corporate body of Christ, and of long-suffering endurance in partaking in His sufferings—these are the most compelling reasons to believe what Scripture says about homosexuality, explains Hill.
“[The] struggle isn’t a mindless, unobserved string of random disappointments . . . And faithfulness is never a gamble. It will be worth it. The joy then will be worth the struggle now,” he writes (p. 79).
Unfortunately, as he’s experienced, the life he describes is one that is incredibly lonely. There’s a great temptation for homosexual Christians to pull away from any non-erotic same-gendered relationship for fear of it becoming something inappropriate. As a result, Hill (and many others like him) spent years trying to bear his burden on his own. “My very longing for loving, affectionate, yet nonsexual, relationships with persons of the same sex had paradoxically led me to shrink back from those relationships,” he writes (p. 114). And correcting this, he says, requires a profound theology of brokenness.
“I have come to realize my need to take the New Testament witness seriously that groaning and grief and feeling broken are legitimate ways for me to express my cross-bearing discipleship to Jesus,” he explains (p. 119).
There is a time coming when all who believe will no longer struggle with brokenness and when we will stand in the presence of Christ. “But until that day, we groan in faithful anticipation. We long for the end of longing, the end of our loneliness” (p. 120).
I really appreciate how well Hill handles the subject matter. Reading the book, it was evident that he was desperately seeking to be accurate and faithful to the Scriptures, even as he was drawing out his application. As a result, the struggle he describes isn’t one simply about living as a homosexual Christian, although that is the immediate context—it’s about living as a faithful Christian while we all continue to struggle with sin.
So there’s a sense in which Hill’s struggles are my struggles. They manifest in different ways, but the root issue is the same: Sin. And in light of this, the question of whether or not someone can practice homosexuality and still be a Christian is revealed as the wrong one: The real question is whether or not someone can live an unrepentant life and still be a Christian.
And the answer to that is no.
Our lives are to ones of continual, ongoing repentance. To seek to live in light of who Christ has called us to be. I am grateful for the reminder that Hill has given me in this book.
In Washed and Waiting, Wesley Hill’s thoughtful and biblical attitude toward same sex attraction and Christian faithfulness is a shining example of the sufficiency of the gospel. Read this book and allow it to break your heart and renew your hope for those struggling with homosexuality.
Title: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality
Author: Wesley Hill
Publisher: Zondervan (2010)