INTERVIEWS | Dominic Steele
Friday 10 April 2015
Growing up you say you invested a lot of time keeping things secret.
But at the same time I was really nervous about talking about my sexuality in church. When I went through puberty I realised I had a pretty exclusive attraction to men. I was not attracted to girls or women at all. And I was ashamed of that.
You are here to give talks with the title “Washed and waiting”. Tell us about the word “washed” first.
That word “washed” is from 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul is describing how the Corinthian believers were involved in all sorts of behaviours and identities and sins, and he says, “But you were washed, you were justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” We are washed. We don’t belong to our past any more. That does not define us.
The word ‘waiting’ is really a new reflection for me.
Well, when Paul starts describing the Christian life, he says, “Now you have been washed; now you have been justified.”
He says in Romans 8:22-23 that we believers who have the first fruits of the spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
In my current body I am filled with all kinds of desires, and temptation, so I am looking for the day when God will fully redeem. There is a sense that, whoever I am, I am not having perfect sex, I am not having the perfect life, and I am waiting for that wholeness.
I think it is a description of every Christian. It became poignant to me because same- sex attraction is not something I have been dramatically delivered from. I am living chastely, so I am not living in gay promiscuity but I have not been delivered from being gay – if that means the feeling of attraction.
There would be lots and lots of heterosexual marriages where sex is not simple. I would say almost universally there is frustration about the amount or quality of sex.
And you realise in those moments sex is not just about the gratification of my desire. It is about committing to this larger story of God’s purposes for us.
In heterosexual marriage, sex is primarily about giving oneself to another. It is not about simply indulging. As a celibate person, I have to realise that sex is not something that God owes me as a right. It is something that I believe God has called me to live without.
You say there is a call to celibacy, but it’s not a call to no love.
When we hear that word “celibacy”, it is kind of an archaic word. We don’t use it all that often. We talk about singleness instead. I sort of like using the word celibacy. It is a rich Christian word.
There is a way you can love more broadly than someone loaded down with nappies and sports carnivals.
I belonged to a church in Minnesota for a while and there was a woman named Char who was in her eighties. She never married. But she would travel to visit missionaries, she would go round to different houses in the church and make meals for people, she was called “auntie” by dozens of children and she would not have been able to do that if she was married. It was her celibacy that allowed her to live that life of love.
Is friendship between gay celibate Christians a glimpse of heaven?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22 “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” In Matthew 19, Jesus talks about “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Those eunuchs, those virgins, those celibate people now get to be a foretaste, a pointer to the new creation.
Many Christians want to take a soft line on homosexuality, to live in peace with neighbours. What do you say to them?
I would say biblical teaching about our sexuality isn’t just on the fringe of the New Testament: it is really at the heart of things. When Jesus is asked about divorce, he doesn’t just give an off-the-cuff opinion. He goes back to Genesis and he says, “From the beginning God made them male and female.” A lot of people in our culture would say, “Jesus does not mention homosexuality; it is not a big deal.” But actually I think it’s pretty central to the gospel. Jesus is saying God does not discard what he says is good. God made male and female and he saw it was good. That is what Genesis 1 says.
Dr Wesley Hill lectures at Trinity School for Ministry in the US, is a Christian and identifies as gay. He was interviewed by Dominic Steele of Village Church, Sydney. Watch the original interview below.