Most persons in our culture view celibacy as "a burden too heavy to bear." The idea of someone leading a fulfilled life while forgoing sex seems unrealistic, even impossible.
Peer inside the heart and mind of a gay Christian who has embraced the choice for celibacy. Read this excerpt of Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting, from his chapter entitled "A Story-Shaped Life."
Purchase the book to read much more insight into faith and wholeness of life.

A possible celibacy

A robust and vital faith in the Christian story can help us picture celibacy as doable.


Excerpts from Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, pp.54-77

At times..., for me and many others, the weight of the biblical witness and the church's traditional teaching against homosexual practice can seem rather unpersuasive. The list of Bible passages and the statements from ... church leaders just don't seem compelling enough to keep gay and lesbian people from looking for sexual fulfillment in homosexual relationships. In fact, ... these Christian pronouncements appear out-dated, perhaps slightly cruel, and, in any case, not really workable or attainable. <p.54 | p.55> ...It can seem virtually impossible for anyone — let alone homosexual Christians who have no legitimate outlet for their sexual energies — to abstain completely all the time. <p.55 | p.56> ...[T]he demands for purity seem impracticable.

Occasionally it strikes me again how strange it is to talk about the gospel — Christianity's "good news" — demanding ... abstinence from homosexual partnerships and homoerotic passions and activities. If the gospel really is full of hope and promise, surely it must endorse — or at least not oppose — people entering into loving, erotically expressive same-sex relationships. How could the gospel be opposed to love?

Sometimes it seems that we gay and lesbian Christians are unfairly singled out by the church for especially harsh demands. ... Heterosexuals are at least given the option of marriage ... [G]ay and lesbian Christians are offered no hope that we will ever be able to fulfill our deepest sexual longings.

I once read the testimony of a gay Christian from the UK who said that he tried abstinence for a while and found it unworkable. <p.56 | p.57> He would have "good runs," successfully resisting temptation for weeks at a time, his hopes soaring, until the proverbial dam would break and he would find himself on the street looking for a one-night stand. Every time afterward he would feel miserable with guilt. His solution for this cycle of sin-guilt-repentance was to come out as a homosexual Christian and enter into a monogamous homosexual union.

Admittedly, I sympathize with this solution. ... To say no over and over again to some of my deepest, strongest, most recurrent longings often seems, by turns, impossible and completely undesirable. ... If gay and lesbian persons deny themselves the pleasure of being sexually active, won't they end up living shriveled, shrunken lives? ... <p.57 | p.58 | p.59> As a Christian friend once wrote to me, "If healing prayer and counseling don't 'work' and a heterosexual relationship is not viable, then well-intentioned, monogamous homosexual relationships ought to be respected by the church."


Biblical commands are not arbitrary decrees
but correspond to the way the world is and will be.
Richard Bauckham, God and the Crisis of Freedom

...[I]n many spheres of life, rules and demands can seem harsh and deadly if the rhyme or reason for the <p.59 | p.60> rules isn't easy to discern. A parent's warning ("Be home before 11:00 o'clock") or a professor's assignment ("Read and summarize this article") can be maddening if the child or student fails to see the bigger picture within which the rules make some sense. ... <p.60 | p.61>

On the surface, the Bible and the church's demand for homosexuals not to act on their desires can seem old-fashioned, life taking, oppressive. But could it be that if I place that demand into a larger story, then perhaps — just perhaps — it won't seem as irrational, harsh, and unattainable as it otherwise might? ...

In the end, what keeps me on the path I've chosen is not so much individual proof texts from Scripture or the sheer weight of the church's traditional teaching against homosexual practice. Instead, it is, I think, those texts and traditions and teachings as I see them from within the true story of what God has done in Jesus Christ. ...The Bible and the church's no to homosexual behavior make sense to me ... when I look at it as one piece within the larger Christian narrative.

What is it about this Christian story that makes a strange, old-fashioned decree — "Don't have sex with a person of the same sex" — seem doable, even reasonable? ... <p.61 | p.62>



In the first place, the Christian story promises the forgiveness of sins — including homosexual acts — to anyone who will receive it ... <p.62 | p.63 | p.64>

Sometimes I think to myself, "If I've already given into homosexual desires this much in my lustful fantasizing, I've already ruined my track record. Shouldn't I just go all the way and chuck this whole abstinence thing? God doesn't want to forgive me yet again. But then I remember the gospel.

Christianity's good news provides — amply so — for the forgiveness of sins and the wiping away of guilt and the removal of any and all divine wrath through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Seen in this light, the demand that we say no to our homosexual impulses need not seem impossible. If we have failed in the past, we can receive grace — a clean slate, a fresh start. ...



There is a second way in which the Christian story provides a context in which to make some sense of the Bible's no to homosexual practice. The message of what God has done through Christ reminds me that all Christians, whatever their sexual orientation, to one degree or another experience the same frustration I <p.64 | p.65> do as God challenges, threatens, endangers, and transforms all of our natural desires and affections. ... <p.65 | p.66 | p.67>

The gospel resists the fallen inclinations of Christian believers. When we engage with God in Christ and take seriously the commands for purity that flow from the gospel, we always find our sinful dreams and desires challenged and confronted. ... From God's perspective, our [fallen] inclinations are like "the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst" (to borrow Frederick Buechner's fine phrase). Yet when God begins to try to change the craving and give us the living water that will ultimately quench our thirst, we scream in pain, protesting that we were made for salt. The change hurts. ... <p.67 | p.68>

...Engaging with God and entering the transformative life of the church does not mean we get a kind of "free pass," an unconditional love that leaves us where we are. Instead, we get a fiercely demanding love, a divine love that will never let us escape from the purifying, renovating, and ultimately healing grip.

And this means that our pain — the pain of having our deeply ingrained inclinations and desires blocked and confronted by God's demand for purity in the gospel — far from being a sign of our failure to live the life God wants, may actually be the mark of our faithfulness. ...[T]he cruelest thing that God could do would be to leave us alone with our desires, to spare us the affliction of his refining care.



... [There] is yet a third reason Scripture and the church's no to homosexual practice makes sense to me.

From the first page of Genesis, the Bible rings with the truth that we are, before anything else, creatures. The prophet Jeremiah <p.68 | p.69> and Paul after him both used the metaphor of a potter and clay: God is the master artist, and we are his earthenware vessels...

The gospel proclaims that we belong to God twice over — first because he created us, and second because he has redeemed us. ... (Romans 14:7-9).

...[T]he gospel has always said that God may demand from us what he wants, since we do not belong to ourselves. Strictly speaking, we have no "inalienable rights." God reserves all rights for himself. ... <p.69 | p.70>



Fourth, and finally, the Christian story commends long-suffering endurance... <p.70 | p.71>

One of the hardest-to-swallow, most countercultural, counterintuitive implications of the gospel is that bearing up under a difficult burden with patient perseverance is a good thing. ... While those in the grip of Christ's love will never experience ultimate defeat, there is a profound sense in which we must face our struggles now knowing there may be no real relief this side of God's new creation. ...

Significantly, this kind of long-suffering endurance is not a special assignment the gospel only gives to gay and lesbian persons. Many believers of all stripes and backgrounds struggle with desires of various sorts that they must deny in order to remain faithful to the gospel's demands. ... <p.71 | p.72 | p.73 | p.74 | p.75>

I am not alone as a homosexual Christian. I am not the only one who has chosen voluntarily to say no to impulses I believe are out of step with God's desires. ...



The Christian story proclaims that all the demands of Scripture are ultimately summons, calls, invitations — beckoning us to experience true, beautiful, and good humanness.

C. S. Lewis once faced the question: Won't pursuing Christian holiness make me ... become a sheltered, backwoods bumpkin, unaware of and irrelevant to real human experience! To this objection, Lewis wrote:

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, <p.75 | p.76> know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.... Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.

...Woven into the fabric of Christian theology is the insistence that Jesus Christ is the truest, most perfect, most glorious human being who has ever lived — and that those who want to experience true, full, rich humanness must become like him, must pattern their lives after Jesus' humanity (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:1-17).

"Jesus is the model of the fulfilled human being," biblical scholar Walter Moberly writes. "The Gospels portray a compelling and attractive person, who engages seriously with people and is good company at a party. Yet all the evidence is that he lived as a sexual celibate." It may come as a surprise in our age of personal gratification that Jesus never married and never had sex — with a woman or with a man. He never gave in to any lust. Although <p.76 | p.77> he experienced every human temptation (Hebrews 4:15), he never sinned sexually. And yet he was the truest, fullest human being who has ever lived. Indeed, precisely because he never sinned, he was truly, fully human. From the Bible's perspective, sin mars and stains humanity. But Jesus never felt that stain.

Does this mean that everyone who wants to share the true humanity of Jesus must be single and celibate? No. It does, however, shift the terms of our modern thinking about sexuality. It dislodges our assumption that having sex is necessary to be truly, fully alive. If Jesus abstained and if he is the measure of what counts as true humanity, then I may abstain too — and trust that, in so doing, I will not ultimately lose. ...

End of excerpts from Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, pp.54-77. Again, purchase the book to read much more insight into faith and wholeness of life!