Homosexuality is a hot-button issue within the church. The issue is not one that is between the church and the world; as in the church says its wrong the world says its evil. There are many that seemingly love Jesus that make arguments that homosexuality is an okay option for a believing Christian. And there are certainly those that take the position that homosexuality is wrong and they do so in anger and pride.
For those like me, that feel the biblical position on homosexuality is that it is sinful, one thing that is often lost in the middle of discussing homosexuality and battling legislation is that real people are fighting real sin. If we truly believe that homosexuality is sinful then we have to truly believe that the only remedy is the gospel (not legislation or simply saying STOP IT!).
Wesley Hill writes Washed and Waiting from the perspective of someone in the middle of the struggle. He believes that homosexuality is sinful but yet he still struggles with homosexual desires. As it says on the front cover, “he advocates neither unqualified ‘healing’ for those who struggle nor accommodation to temptation, but rather faithfulness in the midst of brokenness.”
From the midst of this brokenness Wesley hopes to equip struggling Christians on the frontline of three main battles. The first is to fully understand the gospel’s call on his life and how this confronts his homosexual desire and empower him to obey Christ in the midst of it. The second battle is loneliness. And the last battle is to battle the shame and guilt that accompanies this brokenness.
The books three chapters are centered around these three battles. Interspersed between these are mini-biographies of those that have fought the fight (homosexuality), two of whom have and finished the race. These people are Henri Nouwen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wesley himself. (Honestly, I’m not sure that Nouwen and Hopkins add much to the discussion; but they certainly are not bad chapters).
This book is not meant to be a defense of Hill’s position. It is simply as Hill described meant to help people in their struggle. He wants to help people who struggle with same-sex desire to cling to Jesus in the midst of this brokenness.
So, how in the world do I interact with this book? Honestly the book rebuked me, encouraged me, and rocked me to the core. So I’m struggling with how to faithfully interact with this book.
First, I will say that unless you read this book knowing that Wesley’s struggle is YOUR struggle you will not get it. This book isn’t fundamentally about homosexuality. It’s really a book about how a sinner can simultaneously be a saint. It’s a book about clinging to the faithfulness of Jesus in the midst of our own unfaithfulness, idolatry, and brokenness. It is about being afflicted with the gospel.
Secondly, the most unique thing about this book is Hill’s pleading with the church to help in healing this brokenness. This is refreshing. Often the relationship between church and homosexuality is either “accept me without change” or “change before we accept you”. Hill writes above the fray on this. To him the church is the answer to loneliness that comes from his struggle.
Hill’s statement here is worth chewing on:
“…the New Testament views the church—rather than marriage—as the primary place where human love is best expressed and experienced” (111)
I love how throughout this book he places our struggle with sin in the larger story that is lived out in the context of the church. Beautiful.
Thirdly, Hill’s view of sanctification is positive and refreshing. He rightly understands that struggling against sin is not a mark of unfaithfulness but faithfulness. His view is perhaps best summed up in this paragraph:
The Bible calls the Christian struggle against sin faith (Hebrews 12:3-4; 10:37-39). It calls the Christian fight against impure cravings holiness (Romans 6:12-13, 22). So I am trying to appropriate these biblical descriptions for myself. I am learning to look at my daily wrestling with disordered desires and call it trust. I am learning to look at my battle to keep from giving in to my temptations and call it sanctification. I am learning to see that my flawed, imperfect, yet never-giving up faithfulness is precisely the spiritual fruit that God will praise me for on the last day, to the ultimate honor of Jesus Christ.
I need that perspective. And that is really the final thing for me to interact with. I am not certain how this book would help one struggling with same-sex attraction, because I don’t. But I do struggle with sin that is just as offensive to God. And I minister to people that struggle with a multitude of sins. I minister to people that have same-sex attraction. So how does this book help me minister? In one regard it really doesn’t have a ton of unique things to say about ministering to people with same-sex attraction. You have to read between the lines to pick that up. But at the end of the day you come to learn that what a homosexual person (or a believer struggling with homosexual desire) needs is the same thing you need; namely, Jesus Christ and every implication of His glorious gospel.
One final thing that is worthy of mention**. Many have been upset that Hill uses the term gay Christian or homosexual Christian. I understand their concern. In fact I probably would encourage him not to use it. But this book is so much more than a linguistics exercise. If you are worried about his views of justification, sanctification, and identity in Christ then make certain those concerns are coming from the book itself and not Hill’s use of this term. He defends his use of the term—and even though I don’t find it wise, he does.
At the end of the day this is not a book about what do you label someone that has faith in Jesus, has homosexual desire, and lives celibate in response. This book is about the simple truth that there exists people that have faith in Jesus, sin that isn’t compatible, and a fight for holiness in response.
I am recommending this book for a number of people. Those that have these struggles. Pastors. Parents with homosexual children. And honestly anyone that wants to see an example and learn from someone that is clinging to Jesus in the midst of brokenness. It’s only 160 pages and it is a very engaging read.