Words about Friends: A Review

Wesley Hill is an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School in Ambridge, PA. He published a book with Eerdmans earlier this year called Paul and the TrinityBut in addition to his academic interests, he is also known for having written the book Washed and Waiting, which chronicles his journey toward identifying himself as gay.

As a Christian who believes that the Bible and Christian tradition testify that the only legitimate expression of sex is within heterosexual marriage, however, Hill is also celibate. This book, Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, is his attempt to revive a deeper practice of friendship within the church (he has also spent a lot of time wrestling with this subject on the blog Spiritual Friendship). As such, in spite of the subtitle, this book is really for anyone—gay, straight, single, or married—who has sensed there is something missing from friendship in the modern world but can’t put their finger on exactly what it is.

The book comes in two parts: “one that focuses more on the cultural background, history, and theology of friendship and another that focuses more on the actual living out of friendship” (xviii). Hill writes that he is “someone who makes sense of life with the help of books” (90), and this book is a gratifying, if brief, exploration of a wide swath of literature on friendship.  Hill’s own style is enjoyable to read, and often contains word pictures that struck me with their truth. In the last chapter, he gives six practical suggestions for fostering “more committed, more sibling-like friendships” (106).

  1. Admit our need for friendship
  2. Renew the practice of friendship in the church by starting with the friendships we already have
  3. Remind ourselves that friendship flourishes best when it’s consciously practiced in community
  4. Understand the power of friendships for strengthening communities
  5. Imagine specific ways for friendships to become doorways for hospitality and the welcoming of strangers
  6. Resist the allure of mobility and choose to stay in one place with our friends

As I mentioned above, while Hill may feel his need for friendship more intensely because he is celibate, this book is really for anyone in the church who knows they need deeper friendships but may be unsure how to go about fostering those friendships. May this book serve as an encouragement to many such people to be the kinds of friends they want to have.

As with my previous review, my friend James read the same book and posted a nice, detailed review first.

Note: Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.

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