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Washed and Waiting

Delivered as a talk at the Diocesan Workers’ Communion on 25 July 2017, Dr. Wesley Hill shared from a theological viewpoint, as well as his personal experience, about same-sex attraction and the single life. Below is an edited transcript of the talk.

 

by Dr. Wesley Hill Professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry

I was raised in a godly Christian home. My earliest memories are hearing my parents tell me stories from the Bible. I came to love and trust Jesus Christ from a young age. I was deeply involved in life in the church. As I grew older, I joined the youth group and experienced growth in my discipleship. I had a real hunger for prayer and Scripture, but at the same time, I was going through puberty and awakening to sexual desires.

I realized that many of my friends were growing attracted to the opposite sex, but I was harbouring that attraction for the same-sex. And because I was a Christian in a Bible-believing church, I struggled with feelings of guilt and shame. I feared that this desire I was feeling may be displeasing to God, and I sought to keep my attraction a secret from everyone. I remember praying that God would take these feelings away, and somehow no one would know about it.

In God’s providence, I went to university and was led to share my secret with another Christian. For the first time in my life, I told a fellow believer what I was feeling. It was a very healing moment just as the author of the first epistle of John calls “walking in the light”. The person I shared with told me that God loved me; that my same-sex attraction did not mean that God had written me off; that God wanted to help me and walk with me through this.

After the encounter, I began to meet with one of my pastors, and my question for him was this: “How should I live?” Even with counselling and prayer, my same-sex attraction did not go away. But I also found that as I studied Scripture, I was convicted in the biblical teaching about marriage. In the beginning, God created marriage as a union of male and female. I faced a difficult discipleship: I still experienced same-sex attraction, but I also believed in the biblical teaching about marriage. I was caught in the middle, and so I asked, “What does it mean to be faithful in these circumstances? What does it mean to trust God in the midst of this kind of tension?”

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes this:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul is speaking to the reality that some of the Corinthian believers have been involved in same-sex relationships. He is clearly defining this behaviour as sin. It is not holy behaviour that should characterize followers of Christ.

If Paul were to stop there, it would be a harsh word. But in the next verse he gives hope, saying this:

“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.”

Paul says that some of the Corinthians who were involved in this behaviour, those same people have now been washed. This is a baptismal image: They’ve been cleansed; they’ve been forgiven; they’ve been justified – declared righteous in God’s sight – not because of their own works, but because of Christ.

I took great comfort in this verse – that even though I was experiencing these desires, I was tempted with sin; I knew that I was washed. I believed I was righteous in God’s sight, not because of my own effort, but because of God’s grace for me. Being washed and cleansed in God’s presence is the fundamental basis for any holiness. The discipleship that we practise flows from knowing ourselves to be washed.


“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Paul describes the life of those who have been washed as a life of waiting, groaning and looking forward to the redemption of their bodies. In other words, we have been justified, but we are not yet fully redeemed. We know we have been washed, but we are also waiting.

That combination: