It is hard not to compare Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting with Justin Lee’s Torn. They both chronicle a young Christian man’s struggle in coming to terms with a gay orientation. Both grew up in good families. But the differences in the two books are significant. While I had reservations about Torn stemming from its poor theology, I have virtually none with Washed and Waiting.
I’ll be honest. I needed to hear how the church had hurt Justin Lee. I needed to see the ugliness and pain that Christians can cause. But Wesley Hill chooses to emphasize the Christians who have loved him but held a traditional view of homosexuality. The church was supportive. Hill mentions calling a friend late at night to talk and pray. This encouraged me because it means that the church can get it right! We can be lovers of truth and lovers of people! Let me be clear though. I can imagine that Hill has heard some painful things. It’s just that he has not chosen to dwell on those things. That tells me that he is a gracious man who loves the body of Christ.
The theology in Washed and Waiting is not heavy. But its hermeneutics are still solid. It takes a simple approach that this is what the Bible clearly says, and we must abide by it. That means that Hill is convinced that he must remain celibate and wait for God’s total redemption of his body in the next life. He writes persuasively and passionately on this point.
Because of Hill’s convictions, he has faced the reality of living without a life mate...without marriage. He vividly describes the pain of loneliness that is brought on by having a gay orientation. He doesn’t want to be gay. He has tried to form relationships with the opposite sex and has felt no attraction. And because of this, he has felt isolated from the church even when the church has lovingly supported him through friendship. The church needs to hear this in order to compassionate. We need to put ourselves in the celibate person’s shoes and take serious action to support and love them well.
One way that Hill has found peace in his soul in through the contemplation of Bible passages and the biographies and poetry of Christians who have the same struggles. I think the books and poetry he recommends would be a great help to anyone struggling with same-sex attractions. People need to know they are not alone in this battle to honor God.
And here is what I appreciate most. Hill roots his life journey in the glorious truth of the Gospel. His vision is beautiful and compelling. He is living a transformed life even in a weak body. He is keeping his eyes on Jesus. He is living each day by the power of the Spirit in anticipation of the day when his weakness will disappear, and he hears God’s commendation. This a challenge the church needs to hear. What is the cross that we have been asked to bear? How is that going? Are we keeping our eyes on Christ and waiting for his commendation on the day of judgment?
I was hard pressed to find anything I didn’t like about Hill’s book. But maybe one thing to consider is whether it is helpful speaking of oneself as a “gay Christian.” “Gay” would be the adjective, but is it beneficial way to speak? I ask this because in many places, being “gay” means that is one’s identity. And it could even mean that one claims Christ and acts on his or her gay impulses. That is certainly not the way Hill uses the term, but it is worth thinking about. Neil Anderson who has written extensively on spiritual warfare, has emphasized the importance of finding one’s identity in Christ. So whatever term we use, we ought to bear in mind that we win spiritual battles because we are “in Christ.”
I highly recommend this book to every Christian in order to appreciate the struggles of having a gay orientation and how to love your brothers and sisters well. It is also an invaluable resource to hand to your gay friends and relatives.
-Pastor Niall Philyaw