The Table Podcast

Coming Out, Sexual Identity, and the Gospel

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Christopher Yuan discuss how Christians can effectively and lovingly engage issues of sexuality in the culture.

Timecodes
01:43
Yuan’s interest in researching sexuality
04:55
Is sexuality our core identity?
11:48
Biblical singleness and love
19:58
Is marriage the only avenue for love and relational fulfillment?
24:28
Are sexual sins worse than other sins?
30:41
The importance of a loving approach
35:18
How does the Gospel impact our conversations on sexuality?
43:16
The importance of caring for people
Resources Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God. A Broken Mother's Search for Hope

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story  

Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture, and our topic today is holy sexuality and the gospel. I’m Darrell Bock, executive director of cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And my guest is – I can refer to him as a veteran of foreign wars. He’s done this Table podcast before for us. Christopher Yuan, who is professor at large and biblical studies at Moody in – Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Welcome, Christopher. It’s really a pleasure to have you back with us.
Christopher Yuan
I’m so grateful to be on again and so grateful for your ministry, Dr. Bock. Really appreciate you.
Darrell Bock
Well, our topic, as I said, is holy sexuality and the gospel, which actually is the title of a book that Chris has written and the subtitle is Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Glory. So obviously we’re going to be talking about the whole area of sexuality and some of which is LGBTQ stuff. I call it alphabet soup. Every time I go to it, the alphabet gets longer. But on a more serious note, this really is an important discussion for the church. And it walks into an area that’s very much tied to people’s identities, people’s passions, the way in which they see themselves and live. And so Chris, it really is a pleasure to have you take us through this. There’s a question I always ask at the beginning of every podcast, which is, how did you get into this gig? Why are you talking about this and why is it important to you?
Christopher Yuan
I think that’s a great place to start ‘cause a lot of people can – have studied this and a lot of people have dug into God’s word to study this using other disciplines. And for me, I have done that, but also this is something that’s very personal for me. Not being raised in a Christian home, I wrestled myself with sexuality. I came out to my parents. That actually brought them to faith amazingly, which is interesting ‘cause Darrell, we hear the narrative today in Hollywood from media that Christian parents cannot love their gay children, but I had the exact opposite experience. My parents weren’t Christian. They rejected me. They became believers and they knew they could do nothing other than to love me. And in essence I went kind of a very dark path not only involving sexual promiscuity, but also unfortunately drugs, I was kicked out of dental school as a graduate – I was getting my doctorate and moved to Atlanta from Chicago. I was going to school in Louisville, moved to Atlanta, and eventually I was arrested and it was there – that was the beginning of my faith journey.

After years of my parents praying and fasting, she fasted every Monday for seven years. But anyway, it’s my personal experience of coming to this not only through biblical theological understanding, but also just experiential. This is not something that’s foreign to me or abstract, but it’s something very real. I talk about that in my first book that I coauthored with my mom, Out of Our Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. And I introduced this concept of holy sexuality and I knew that I needed to flesh that out and show how that our sexuality, sex desires, and relationships are really shaped by God’s grand story. I really wanted to name it it’s shaped by systematic and biblical theology, but my publisher shot me down. I don’t know why.

Darrell Bock
I think I can figure out why they did that. I think I remember enough of your story to say when you were arrested, you got the chance to make one call and you ended up calling your mom. Do I remember that correctly?
Christopher Yuan
Yes. I actually first before I called her called all my so called friends. No one answered and so she called – she was the bottom of the – last person and she’s – I was expecting an earful and she simply said, “Are you okay?” I think maybe in her old self, she would’ve maybe given her – given me an earful, but just by the grace of God, God gave her the words that I needed to hear at that moment. Just like Paul says in Romans 2:4, that is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. And that was just kind of the beginning of me recognizing that.
Darrell Bock
That’s quite a story and of course it’s tied to the first book that you wrote, Out of a Far Country. Let’s dive into this topic and I’m gonna try and come at this kind of from the other way in, which is that oftentimes when we get into these discussions, the appeal is made that someone who has same sex attraction is made this way, which in certain cases is probably in some ways correct. And that therefore, it’s unfair and unjust to expect someone who is made in a certain way to be – how can I say this – be relegated to a life of loneliness is the way this is painted. It’s the way it’s framed and that this is somehow unjust. Not just of the church, but in some ways unjust of God and then the way it gets flipped is and of course God wouldn’t want anyone to live through that absence of love. That love is one of the most important sustaining virtues of life and to be cut off from this is somehow inappropriate.
And so now in one way or another, it might not be said quite this directly, but now we know better. That this limitation is a limitation that we shouldn’t allow and then there are other things that come on top of it I’m sure we’ll talk about down the road. So just why don’t you start there with that way in and what you – how you view it.
Christopher Yuan
I think, Dr. Bock, you having been in these conversations with God and culture and theology, you’ve really hit the nail on the head. That today when it comes to sexuality, those in the gay community really kind of dwindles down to the main things. One, this is the way they are. They’re born that way. God created them that way and then to have them deny who they are, to be relegated to a life of loneliness, that’s unfair. So let me kind of tackle those two things, which I tackle in my book. As a matter of fact, I essentially begin my book with tackling that part of who we are. Who are we at our essence? And I strongly believe that we can’t understand human sexuality without beginning with theological anthropology. So starting there, yes, the Imago Dei concept is so key that everyone, whether one is – has come to Christ or not yet come to Christ, whether they are living in unrepentant sin or not, whether they identify as gay or not, everyone is created in the image of God.
And that’s important especially for those sometimes very strong, maybe evangelical Christians who hold strong to truth, but don’t get grace and demean those in the gay community. And don’t see them as image bearers, so that’s convicting for them. But as we talk about theological anthropology, we can’t just end with the Imago Dei. Obviously Genesis 1:27, there’s a lot of verses that follow that, particularly Genesis chapter 3, which is the fall. So particularly when I say we can’t understand human sexuality without beginning with theological anthropology, it’s not just the Imago Dei concept, but it’s also the doctrine of sin. So the fall, original sin, what that means. And I’ve just found that there’s so much misunderstanding when it comes to original sin, what that means, that we think that is the actual sin of Adam and Eve, and it’s not. It’s the consequence of their actual sin, which has resulted in guilt and which has resulted in also the fact that we are sinners by nature. Like Augustine says, that we are unable to not sin-non posse non peccare.
So I think that’s really important for us to understand that because when we do – so exactly like you said, Dr. Bock. There’s a sense with – when people say I’m born that way. There’s a sense where that is true. And I wouldn’t say necessarily that people are born gay, but I will say what scripture says. That we are all, as David says in Psalm 51, we are born into sin. So in essence, we all have that sin nature and that we all have this propensity to sin. So the argument that Christians make and of course unbelievers, they make this argument and that’s understandable. But when Christians make this – make the assertion that people are just born that way, it really belies a misunderstanding of the doctrine of sin, which is comprised of theological anthropology, that understanding of humanity through the lens of God. So starting there is really important because we know that actually every one of us, we all are sinners by nature.
And then later we become sinners by choice, by our actions. And because of that, that is why all of the human race is in need of a redeemer to redeem us from the bondage of sin. So beginning there that’s really important. Who are we? I think having this concept of identity is so important ‘cause I really don’t know of any other sin issue that we have conflated with personhood. For example, if you know an adulterer. If I call someone an adulterer, I don’t view that as who they are, but what they do or what they are continuing to do. A liar, we wouldn’t say that’s who you are, but that’s what they do. However, when it comes to sexuality when we use this term, the world has conflated sexuality with who we are. And honestly sexuality isn’t who we are. It’s how we are and that’s a big difference because then that’s able to separate ontology with experience, especially with ethics. And that was my whole world.

When I said I am gay, I did not mean these are my experiences or this is what I feel or this is what I do. When I said I am gay years ago – and I don’t use the terms anymore because I think that has been confused with ontology. When I said I am gay, I meant this is who I was. And I think as Christians, we need to begin there because when we interact with our gay neighbor or coworker, before we can even talk about morality and ethics, we need to help them to separate the sexuality from who they are, their desires from who they are, their actions for their same sex behavior from who they are. Because when it’s all lumped together and we begin and say you’re – what you’re doing is sinful, that’s not what they hear. That’s not what I heard. I heard that my whole person, no matter what I did, was reprehensible before God. And so I think that’s important for us to know that. But then the other part where we talk about it’s unfair is I think we have a really bad understanding of singleness. I have actually two chapters. My biggest chapters in my book is actually on singleness and I specifically use the word singleness as opposed to celibacy.

Because I think that is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 7 when he says “agamos”- not married. I think the closest English word that we have for not married or unmarried is just simply single. It’s a state, not necessarily a calling. I don’t believe that when Paul talks about – in 1 Corinthians 7, he’s talking about a calling. If there’s anything that’s a calling right there in the middle of the 1 Corinthians 7, it’s actually a call to salvation. In other words, saying that that no matter if you’re uncircumcised or circumcised, no matter if you’re married or unmarried, no matter if you’re a slave or free, none of those conditions really matter because what really matters is that you are saved. That is your calling to Christ and that everything else doesn’t matter.

So I think that I feel more comfortable just with using the word single, but I have two chapters in – actually I have two chapters on theology of marriage, two chapters on the biblical theology of singleness very purposely because I think we’ve distorted as Christians the meaning of – a new covenantal understanding of being unmarried. Because in the old covenant, obviously being unmarried was not a positive thing. But then- and I don’t know – I’m sure, Dr. Bock, you’re familiar with Barry Danylak. I think he’s – he just was so influential with me helping to understand a proper biblical understanding of the Biblical theology of singleness. But his work I relied on a lot and he basically kind of drew from the Old Testament and New Testament, and helped us understand how there is this really wonderful understanding of singleness in light of the new covenant, and especially understanding what family means as those of us who are redeemed. That our true family isn’t one bound by blood, physical blood, but our true family is bound by the blood of Christ. That’s the true eternal family, which is the body of Christ, the church.

So understanding singleness in that way, especially in light of the consummation, God’s grand story, creation, fall, redemption, consummation – understanding the singleness in that light, we know that singleness is not a curse. Singleness is not maybe necessarily unfair and this is also partially why I use the term holy sexuality ‘cause I wanted to really elevate it. This is a standard not just for those who have same sex attractions, but really those who are human. That holy sexuality is really good news for all. So singleness is not really a curse. Marriage does not have a monopoly on love and I think that’s really important that we are able to communicate that, especially as redeemed followers of Christ. That it is because of our faith that we know that yes, marriage is a good thing. It is something instituted by God and it’s a blessing, but also living as a single woman, as a single man is also a good thing and is also a blessing.

Darrell Bock
In fact the moment you mentioned that, the thing that immediately leaps to my mind is someone who’s spent his life studying Jesus. Jesus was not married and yet I don’t think we would say he was lonely. I don’t think we would say he missed out on being loved and loving people. And so he was very, very engaged. My response to this love and loneliness claim is there are all kinds of ways to love and there are all kinds of ways to deal with loneliness in this life. And when we equate love with the right to sexuality, we actually – we’re conflating something else that doesn’t necessarily belong together. My parents love me immensely. I love my children immensely, but that has nothing to do with sexuality. So I just think that – there’s a whole construct there. I think it actually shows how pervasively a secular understanding love has come into our conversation because we’ve elevated this to such a high level that it almost becomes connected to our identity in a way that it shouldn’t.
Christopher Yuan
That’s exactly right. We really have. I tell my students at Moody, love does not equal sex. World elevates sex as one of the most intimate forms that two – of a relationship. One of the most endearing ways that two people can connect and I reject that. Honestly having been very sexually active, I know many people today who are sleeping together, having sex, and they don’t love each other. So love does not equal sex. Of course God intended sex to be enjoyed within the context of marriage of a husband and a wife, a wife and a husband loving each other, but sex has unfortunately been misused and distorted in many ways. So sex does not equal love. Love does not equal sex. And I even kind of go on and say love is not equal to romance either. I know many people. It’s springtime now, so I don’t know what it’s like at DTS, but at Moody Bridal Institute, spring is in the air. And so there’s a lot of kids that are romantic and I even think that some of those kids, you might be romantic. You might have those feelings, but I don’t know if I’m really convinced that you actually really selflessly love that other individual.
So maybe not just picking on Moody, but anywhere even within the church. People can be romantic, but that is not equivalent to love. And even let’s just say romantic – yes, the romantic love between a husband and wife is something beautiful and that’s what it’s intended for. But that relationship, that beautiful relationship between a husband and a wife, which is really a shadow of the eternal reality as Paul talks about in Ephesians 5 with Christ and his bride, the church. That is not the only form of love. Just as you said, Dr. Bock, you and your children, you and your parents. That’s love, but that’s not a marriage relationship and even there’s something about a mother’s love for her child that I think can sometimes even be longer lasting than some of the marriage relationships that we see in the world.

So marriage definitely does not have a monopoly of love. It is certainly a form of context in which love can occur, but not the only one. And yet we find, for example, the Obergefell decision, where Justice Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, where he wrote at the very end of his majority opinion. He said something of the effect that marriage is the highest ideal of love and I simply disagree. It is a form of love. It is a way that love can be expressed, a context, but I don’t see it as the highest, especially as one who holds up God’s word to be true. I view God to be the highest ideal of love. I view the act of Christ going to the cross for us as the greatest expression, the epitome of love. And as good as marriage is – and we need to be careful not to go on the extreme as sometimes we’ll either say it’s – people are trying to shun it or they’re afraid of it. That’s not good, but also then to elevate it almost to the point where we idolize it. And I really think that sometimes the most deceptive forms of idolatry is when we worship something good.

Darrell Bock
In fact if you think about it – and unfortunately this’ll sound like I’m abstracting it a little bit, which I don’t want it to sound like. Marriage and the love that you have in marriage is actually an exceptional form of love. It’s unlike any other love relationship a person has. At least it’s designed to be that way. It’s designed to be singular and exclusive, but there are a whole array of relationships that I have that are rooted and grounded in love that supply flourishing and worth to me that have nothing to do with my marriage. And there are people that I’ve grown up with that I’ve been friends with since I was in elementary school. And they supply a dimension in my life that’s important and that is – that’s also a form of love. So I think what we’ve done is we’ve zeroed in on this one thing that is exceptional.
Now granted for people who are married, it’s very, very important. I’m not belittling it or like I say, trying to abstract it out, but I am trying to say this is actually an exceptional category. But there are all kinds of forms of love that form and nurture a person that go – that operate outside that relationship and that can be a place where needs are met and people are sustained. And probably the hard part of this is that when we focus – at least one aspect is when we focus on marriage so exclusively, we put blinders on ourselves and the other ways in which we can be nurtured and encouraged by a whole array of people with whom we’ll never be married. And so I think that’s an important part of this conversation, this initial part of this conversation as well.
Christopher Yuan
You’re right. Marriage is a very unique, in a class of its own, and I don’t think that friendship is ever meant to replace marriage or to be quite as similar as marriage. I think that there can be friendships that are unique in a sense, but they’re not meant to be exclusive in a sense that marriage is meant to be exclusive. That’s just not how friendships were meant. So I don’t think that there needs to be – I definitely need brothers in the Lord who I am close with and intimate with, and – but I don’t think it needs necessarily to be exclusive because life changes. And my trends can change as well and that’s – in God’s sovereignty is a good thing. I think we often lift up the quintessential example of David and Jonathan, but I do find it interesting that scripture never calls them friends. I just found that very interesting. The New Testament never – as Jesus was calling his disciples to – how to live and love one another, he never brings up Jonathan and David. And not say silence can’t be an argument for it. I just find it interesting that it is, but we do find in the Old Testament where David and Jonathan are called brothers. And I think then that – when we take that concept to the New Testament, boy, you find a rich theology of family.
Darrell Bock
We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Christopher Yuan
That ties into the theology of adoption and church. So I really think that if we’re gonna be holding up any kind of really form of intimacy, yes, we’re called to be friends. But really the New Testament calls all of us to love us in each other. In what way? As sisters, as brothers.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, family.
Christopher Yuan
Yeah, family. Which by the way, I think that points to – which I think in the conversation has been missing in the past several decades when it comes to sexuality. In a sense, we’re getting very pragmatic, but I really feel like how the local church has been left out of the picture. And I think that is why maybe in the past some organizations and ministries might have kind of floundered was because it really left – in my view left the church out of the picture, which meant there was no spiritual headship and guidance theologically and biblically.
Darrell Bock
I’m gonna flip to the other side of kind of the coin here ‘cause you alluded to this earlier and I wanna explore it a little bit with you. It was your remark about in effect in the midst of being in the right place, there are some people who don’t show grace to people made in the Imago Dei. And I wanna kinda get at this perhaps again a little bit through a back door, but I think it’s an important point. Romans 1 is a really important text in these conversations and what often happens in Romans 1 is see the example is a same sex relationship. That’s how bad things have gotten. That’s normally the way it’s framed. And then what I do when I handle this passage is I say you gotta keep reading on because there’s this huge list of sins that people commit that make us – ultimately the argument is revealed in chapter three. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
And the rebuke that comes at the end of the chapter is not in the singular. People who do these things and I tease people who are afraid of grammar. Now sometimes you learn grammar for a reason. It can help you understand what’s going on. It’s referring to the list that’s just – that they’ve just walked through. So that the point of the passage is we all have this need for God. We all struggle in various areas and somehow we have managed to make this sin its own separate super duper category, if I can say it that way, at the expense of other things in that list which God is also urging us not to be involved with and that we need to separate ourselves from. That’s just a general comment and that is an open door. Walk through it.
Christopher Yuan
Oh, man, I 100 percent agree with you or I guess I should say agree with you because I think you’re being – you’re reading scripture as you do always so well, Dr. Bock. And it’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re just saying what scripture says. Looking at Romans 1, it’s certainly – verse 26 and 27 is toward the end, but there are four more verses after that or five more, verse 32, that come after that. Which honestly I see – starting from verse 18, he’s – Paul, who’s just such an amazing orator and writer and so logical in his writing just begins, verse 18, 19. And it’s kind of building and building and building. The crescendo – I’m a pianist and so I love classical music. The crescendo is not at verse 26 and 27. The crescendo, the climax is really toward the end when he begins. He just almost kind of vomits out all of these other sins, like malice and gossiping, slandering, boastful, disobedient to my parents.
Dr. Bock, when I read this, I was in prison. This is my first time. Remember I didn’t read anything and I happen to fall – come across Romans 1. And of that whole list of – Romans 1:18-32. The thing that stuck out to me most wasn’t 26 and 27. That I was doing what was unnatural according to Paul. For me what stuck out most was that I was disobedient to my parents. I was so cruel to them. Of course as a prodigal, I justified my ways and that’s why I wanted to write my first book with my mom ‘cause I wanted to write from my perspective then and show how – not justifying my actions, but to show why. ‘Cause parents so many times are like, “Why is my prodigal doing this to me?” I felt like the victim. Of course it was wrong, but I – when I was off drugs finally and I was sober, God just cleared my mind. That I not only disobeyed God, but I was disobeying my parents and that struck me. And from what I remember, Romans 1 toward the end, that’s one of the last things.
So you’re totally right. Paul was not elevating homosexuality in my mind to be the worst sin. Of course we know sexual sins are in a different category because of sinning against the – our body, against the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Holy Spirit. But it is from here, he’s just – he’s actually listing a whole bunch of other sins which it – he’s really climaxing at that point and saying this is how bad all of humanity are. Not just how individuals turn into gay people or turn into having same sex attractions, but this is all humanity that God has put up with in a sense. And finally as you see in Romans 3, where it gets to that point, for all have sinned, not just the Gentiles. Romans 1, but the Jews in Romans 2, but everyone in Romans 3. But then – which then leaves an open door for the beautiful gospel, which I love Romans 5. That – which I think is a perfect example how my parents love me. While I was weak or powerless, while I was still – I love that part – still a sinner and while I was – so I wanted to just – I wasn’t just a – still a sinner. I was his enemy and God so loved me. And so my parents were able to understand that grace and then extend that grace to me. That they loved their gay son not in a way that the world says. Just love, which means accept not only them, but accept their behavior. But love in the way what I would call biblical love. Loving the way that God loved while we were weak, while we were still sinners, while we were his enemies.
Darrell Bock
And I think it’s key in thinking about this that makes all the difference in the world whether I approach someone is we’re thinking about sharing the gospel and asking people to think about what the gospel is about. If I come to someone and say I’m in a better place than you are, by which I mean I am in a better place than you are, not through the grace of God versus saying we’re all in the same place. We all have the same need and what God has shown me about life is something I deeply believe because I love you could also be a benefit to you. I think the platform from which we approach people is very, very important for how we represent the gospel. There’s a wonderful passage in 1 Peter 3. Another part of the passage is actually more famous. It’s the text about be prepared to set Christ apart in your hearts. To give a defense for the hope that is in you and do so with gentleness and respect.
But then it goes on and it talks about Jesus’ death as the justification for why you do this. And then it says – in effect, it says and that’s why Christ died for you, which is the reminder that the reason we do this is because we remember where we’ve come from and who it is who has changed our lives. Of course that’s the story of grace and the story of God that does it. And we all have the same need and the same starting point, and we all have on offer the same opportunity to have God lift us up out of wherever we are, whatever our faults are, whatever our sins are. And experience the restoration back to what God created us to be as a result. And I think that approaching people on that basis is the healthiest way to engage them with the gospel.
Christopher Yuan
Amen. I totally agree. I think if we don’t begin there and then it’ll totally come across as I’m better than you or holier than thou. And recognizing that the same grace that was given to me is the same grace that I want you to see you receive from God yourself. And I think when my parents tell their testimony – for example, my mom. It wasn’t until she recognized that she was a sinner herself that then she was able to love me because I was a sinner like her. And she couldn’t separate before. I guess it kinda comes back down to ontology. She could not separate. In her mind, I came out of the closet. I rejected the family and she saw that as just – especially for Asian mother to reject the family is probably the –
Darrell Bock
That is the unforgivable sin.
Christopher Yuan
So she could not – and particularly it was her son rejecting her, the mom. She took it very personally as a typical tiger mom. She will say that she was and –
Darrell Bock
She was growling as a result.
Christopher Yuan
Exactly. She could not love me anymore, but she wanted to. She had this struggle and then – so she – as you know in the story, a minister of all things gave her a booklet on homosexuality which shared the gospel. And that she recognized first and foremost that she was a sinner. And so once she realized that, she was able to – and we have this saying that of course I recommend people don’t say it, just do it. It’s the phrase love the sinner, hate the sin. It can be twisted and distorted. God loves us when we were enemies and God loved us and loved the world. So there’s this – and not to separate it, though. I’m not trying to be Gnostic and trying to separate sin and the sinner, but she was able – I mean, Gnostic in a sense that the sin does affect the sinner. But she was then able to then hate what I was doing, but still see that I was her son and that she could still love me and hope that I would then come to a better place. And at that point when she came to know Christ that I too would accept the grace. Just as you were saying, that God extended to her.
Darrell Bock
Now the interesting thing is in thinking about this – and I think this is another part of this that we don’t think about enough – is – and we’re back to almost where we started, which is you care for a person and you love for a person because they are made in the image of God. That brings them worth and respect. That is – if I can say it this way and it may sound too stark – irregardless of what they’ve done. The basis for loving the enemy isn’t because their performance sheet commends them to you. It’s because there is an inherent connection of what the person was created to be and what – I will say it this way, what they have the potential to be. That is different from who they currently are and the gospel is the anecdote for that.
And if you can step in with the gospel as the anecdote for that and show the way in which God loves the person because they’re made in the image of God and has taken the steps to deal with what has left them short at the same time, you have the opportunity to turn them from being a debtor. It’s actually oftentimes what sin means is that I’m in debt – into a debtor into being someone who has received something that takes them out of that place of debt. And I just think what happens is we actually – this is ironic. We make the same mistake that the same sex advocate makes in that we make their identity their sexuality.
Christopher Yuan
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
And when you do that, you’ve actually gone to the same space and the same place. And what we’re supposed to do is to recognize that this person, despite their failures and their falling short, has the potential under the grace of God to be something that they have not been. And so we respond to them accordingly. So we can either think about who they are and get – who they are currently and get stuck there or we can think about the possibility of what God can do with this person. And I think that will change the way you think about relating to someone.
Christopher Yuan
That’s exactly right. I 100 percent agree. It’s understandable. Not right, but it’s understandable why people who don’t follow Christ, who don’t hold to any scriptural authority, who are unbelievers, why they would conflate sexuality with personhood. I get that and I’m – I bemoan it, but I understand that. But what really frustrates me is just like what you’re saying, is then Christians will do that. We’ll say look at those – the gay community, the lesbian community. How they make their sexuality who they are. And yet when we see a gay person, how do we see them as? We see them by their sinful behavior alone and nothing else. And like you say, we forget that this individual, though who has yet to know Christ, is still an image bearer of God. This person has been created in his image and if this person puts their faith in Christ, they – like you say, they have that potential to then be like Christ. They will be like Christ and we need to, I believe, stop viewing same sex behavior as the only lens through which we see those in the gay community.
And I’m not at all saying that we need to ignore or treat trivially this sinful behavior. I just don’t think that we need to elevate it as the first thing ‘cause this is something that I often hear when I speak at churches. They will ask I have this gay friend or gay coworker. How do I tell them? And I’m like, “Tell them what?” “That this is sin.” Why does this have to be the first thing that you wanna tell them? How about first build a relationship with them, get to know them first. If you have no what I would call relational capital, how are you able to talk about some really controversial things? For example, what the world sees as religion, what we see as the gospel, but that’s offensive to the world. So you need to have some relational capital in a sense to build some trust so they can listen. So I’m like, “First just get to know the person, but the second thing is not that we would tell them that they’re living in sin. The second thing is talk to them about God, the existence of God and Jesus Christ, his son, who is known to be a historical individual. And talk about that reality. They will definitely try to bring it around to the ethics of same sex relationships, whether it is sin or not. I think it’s okay.”

As you know, Dr. Bock, so many times the Pharisees and Sadducees, and scribes try to corner Jesus with questions. They wanted a yes or no answer and Jesus, being God, just – he did what he knows how to do best and he sometimes was silent. Only a few times he was silent. He sometimes answered questions with a question. He sometimes gave an answer to a question that they didn’t even ask.

Darrell Bock
He reframed the question.
Christopher Yuan
He totally reframed the question. Why? Because I believe it was because God, Jesus, he knew that the question they were asking was really irrelevant. It really wasn’t an important thing and he then reframed it to what was the most important thing, which is the coming of the kingdom of God. And in the same way when people ask do you think this is sin, I know that even if I convince this individual that this behavior is sin, they’re still not saved. So I want to then point them to the only means through which we can be reconciled to God and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that gonna be easy? No, but I think there are ways to then kind of point it around and bring it to that. I think it’s sometimes okay to deflect. You’re not lying. Here’s a few things. If someone says “do you think this is sin?” – and oftentimes it’s not in that nice tone. It’s usually kind of a more kind of argumentative –
Darrell Bock
“You mean you really think this is sin?”
Christopher Yuan
Exactly. I think it depends on who you know. If it is someone you know well, you could just say – deflect and say “I value getting to know you more than debating. Can we celebrate our similarities, tolerate our differences?” Or you could say “I know you don’t even believe in God, so what does it matter what God thinks yet? Let’s first talk about the existence of God ‘cause I think that’s more important than what God thinks yet.” And I think whatever way you can bring it around. You can even ask how do you define sin, how do you define being gay, and then I really believe that a good apologist, a good evangelist – ‘cause I think evangelists and apologists is basically very similar – I think a good evangelist, a good apologist is one who is a good question asker, who knows how to ask good questions.
So when they ask “do you think that this is sin?”, “well how do you define sin?” And then I can get in this whole conversation about morality. How do you define what is right or wrong? When you do that, I think you’ve just deescalated the moment and forced everyone or the two of us into a deeper conversation as opposed to just this yes or no question. You’ve brought it down and when you’re down here, I think you have more of a capability than to share God’s truth and point people to Christ.
Darrell Bock
I often say that the challenge of the gospel in our time, particularly as our culture gets less biblical, is that on the one hand, you’re issuing an invitation, but that invitation does have a challenge in it. Because you’ve gotta recognize certain things about yourself and in the midst of that, it – you can’t critique someone and expect it to be received unless they know you – that you care about them. And so establishing that ground of care that says “the person who’s saying this to me, I already know has engaged me in such a way that I know they care about me. They wouldn’t be telling me this unless they cared” and so now that ups the ante in terms of paying attention to what it is that’s being said. Because it’s coming out of a good place and they understand it’s coming out of a good place. And so building that’s important.
My remark, it’s like your remark about being a good questioner is. The really good evangelist and apologist is actually a good listener. They are getting what I call a good spiritual GPS reading on the person that they’re interacting with, where they’re coming from, what motivates them, what their values are, why they hold to those things. There actually may be things in their past that cause them to hold to those things, that kind of thing. If you can find that out in the midst of your conversation just getting to know someone, that’s worth of knowing. And so I think that sometimes we have so equipped people in the church to say what our message is and to tell that we’re quick on the trigger and a little James 1 can be helpful. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” And when you apply that in these kinds of contexts where you’re having what will be difficult conversations and where you’ll be challenged about how to respond, this ability to step back and kind of go let’s not go there yet. Let’s think about this. It’s like when you were talking earlier about Jesus reframing the question. I immediately jumped to the good Samaritan, which is something we talked about earlier. ‘Cause the question was, who is my neighbor? And then I tell people he’s really asking a different question. The question he’s really asking is, “aren’t there some people who are not my neighbor, who I don’t have to pay attention to?”
Christopher Yuan
‘Cause he was testing him, right?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly, he was testing him and that’s when he wanted to not have to pay attention to certain people. And the whole point of the parable is be like the good Samaritan. So the question is not who is my neighbor – who is or isn’t my neighbor. The real question is, who are you? What are you doing? How are you relating to people? And you wanna relate to people in a way that you are the good Samaritan, where you show you care.
Now granted the situation in the parable is pretty transparent. Someone’s been abused, and he goes in and meets and helps them out. It’s not the same situation when you’re talking to someone about a sin that they’re engaged in, but the principle’s the same. Which is I’m here to love you and to care for you and to try and show you that the way in which you’re viewing life, which is that your identity is totally wrapped up in your sexuality, is actually blurring what your real identity is and what your real potential in your identity is. And if you can see that, you can have a completely different kind of life than the life you’re having now. And probably a bad thing to say as a Christian, I’m willing to bet you it’s a better life. That’s what we’re saying to people.
Christopher Yuan
Yes. That really hits the nail on the head. One of my talks that I just call the Christian response where I end that and I use the example of my parents. They were not hitting me over the head with “you’re living in sin, you need to change, you’re gonna go to hell”, none of that. Really what they did – and they actually really didn’t even bring up that I was living in sin, that same sex relationships are sinful. They simply just lived the life as a godly man, as a godly woman, and I saw Christ in them. So as I say, and I end my talk in this, that I did not leave pursuing same sex relationships, but I left it because I saw something better. I saw that following Christ is better than pursuing same sex relationships. I saw that following Christ was better than anything that this world has to offer. And I think we need to live it and we need to – before we communicate that, we gotta live it and people need to see that. And so I think that’s really important that before we preach the gospel, we really gotta live that gospel. Because if we try to preach it and we’re not living it, then people will really see right through us.
Darrell Bock
Sometimes when we show it, that is able to penetrate a phaser shield that when we say it, the phaser shield goes up. And so – well, Chris, believe it or not, our time’s gone. We’ve run actually a little over time, which is okay, but I wanna thank you for coming and talking with us about this. I’m sure it’s not the last conversation we’ll have about this ‘cause this has always been a good exchange that we’ve been able to have here on The Table. And I do thank you for taking the time to be with us today.
Christopher Yuan
Thank you so much for having me on again, Dr. Bock.
Darrell Bock
It’s a pleasure and we thank you for being with us on The Table. We hope you’ll be with us again soon. If you have a topic that you’d like to – for us to consider for a future episode, please feel free to email us at thetable@dts.edu. That’s thetable@dts.edu. That at is of course the [at symbol] and we’ll take your topic under advisement because we’d love to discuss what you’re interested in having us discuss. Again, we thank you for being a part of The Table and we hope you’ll join us again soon.
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Christopher Yuan
Dr. Christopher Yuan teaches at Moody Bible Institute. His speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks in conferences on college campuses and in churches. Dr. Yuan is featured in the award-winning documentary HOPE Positive: Surviving the Sentence of AIDS, and has co-authored with his mother their memoir, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005, Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007 with a Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis and received his doctorate of ministry in 2014 from Bethel Seminary.
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
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