Book Review: Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill – Part 2
Further Thoughts by Ward Shope
Sex, Intimacy and Community
We all yearn to be deeply known, and to be affirmed by the one who deeply knows us. In his book, Washed and Waiting (see my first book review blog below), Wesley Hill explains why intimacy seemed so unattainable for him. As a believer in Jesus with same-sex attraction, celibacy is the choice of faithfulness to God, and he found himself holding male relationships at bay for fear that they would be come sexualized, thus already compounding the loneliness he felt.
Does a life without sex mean a life without intimacy? In our culture, we often cheapen sex so that two strangers can casually use each other for their own sexual satisfaction. But we also idolize sex to the point where a deep relationship without sex, heterosexual or homosexual, is considered to limit intimacy. Must intimacy include sex to be complete? If intimacy implies sex, it is unattainable for any person committed to celibacy. Such a person must be destined for loneliness.
Building on some of Hill’s observations, we reject this. First, the Bible describes our relationship with the Father as “one” (John 17), the apex of intimacy. God commends us, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18); he praises us, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:29): and he loves us sacrificially, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). There is nothing sexual here, and yet we are deeply known, affirmed, and delighted in by our heavenly Father.
Second, some of the most intimate relationships described within the Bible were not sexual relationships. They weren’t marriages, but rather relationships within the community of believers: Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, John and Jesus, etc.
Hill takes us a step further. Under the prompting of a mentor professor, he realizes that humanity, as flesh and spirit beings, requires flesh and spirit intimacy. Certainly Jesus meets every need. But he does that partly through providing a flesh and spirit community of believers – brothers and sisters with whom we can weep and rejoice. We confess sin to them, receive assurance of forgiveness through them, sustain loving mutual correction among them and are loved for our good. This is incredibly intimate, unlimited and not sexualized at all. So there is fulfilling intimacy in the gospel, even for the one who chooses a celibate life!