“Created in God’s Image” (Part 4) – “Healing & Hope” by Philip Baldwin
The story of the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant is central to my understanding of faith and sexuality. It is also one that has often nourished and sustained me through periods of hardship.
I came out as gay in my mid teens and then discovered Christianity in my mid-twenties, following an HIV diagnosis. St John’s in Waterloo was the first church I began to attend regularly. It is headed by Giles Goddard, who has played a central role in advocating for LGBT people within the Church of England.
Giles loaned me his copy of Jeffrey John’s The Meaning in the Miracles, in which Jeffrey superbly analyses the role of the centurion and his servant. Through his miracles, Jesus sought to include those previously excluded within the love of the Church. The centurion describes his servant as “very dear to him” (Luke 7.2). When this man gets gravely ill, the centurion is so concerned that he asks Jesus to intervene.
Seen in the appropriate Greco-Roman context, the centurion and his servant were almost certainly lovers. Ancient history is full of such liaisons, most notably Hadrian and Antinous. In my view, the inference that the centurion and his servant were in a romantic relationship would have been clear to Jesus and to early readers of the gospels.
I have never experienced any conflict between my faith and my sexuality and Jeffrey’s analysis of these verses reinforced that view. I can see reflections of my own life in the Healing of the Centurion’s servant and hope, one day, to have a committed monogamous relationship, celebrated through marriage in a Church of England church.
I hope and pray that wherever you are, whatever you are going through, that you too might know that Jesus is interested in reaching out to you – that He actively seeks out those on the margins, and that He has time and interest in each and every one of us.
“Lord, we are all gloriously made in Your image to live and love as we choose. Give us strength in the face of homophobia, even when this comes from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us find places of worship where we are accepted, can prosper and grow into the individuals You would like us to be, free from shame.”