The Table Podcast

A Gay Son’s Journey to God

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Christopher Yuan discuss homosexuality, focusing on Yuan’s journey from the pursuit of homosexual relationships to the pursuit of Christ.

Timecodes
00:15
Yuan’s spiritual journey
07:23
Major themes in Yuan’s ministry helping the church engage the LGBT community
13:30
Identity, image bearing, and marriage according to Jesus
22:28
Advice for parents of gay children
27:26
Earning the right to share the gospel by first listening and loving well
32:00
Evangelism must have the right timing and the right tone
36:36
Engaging the LGBT community inside and outside the church
40:11
The church needs a robust theology of singleness
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, executive director for cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. My guest is Christopher Yuan, who is a professor at Moody Bible Institute. We have affectionately nicknamed it Dallas North. I hope they won’t be offended by that. But we send a lot of people up there, and you send a lot of people to us. So it’s a good relationship.

Our topic today is the issue of sexuality and the church, particularly same-sex issues. Chris wrote a book called Out of a Far Country with his mom talking about his experience of coming to faith. So I think I’m just going to begin by having you talk about that a little bit. How in the world did you get this gig?

Christopher Yuan
Well, it’s all miraculous. Anything that happens is really by the grace and infinite wisdom of God. Well, I wasn’t a Christian, but from a young age I had these attractions that I never asked – never wanted. I even wanted them to go away, and they didn’t.

I came out in my early 20s. I was going to dental school and pursuing my doctorate in dentistry. I came out to my parents. Through that crisis, my mother and father came to faith. We weren’t Christian. So they came to faith while I was going in the opposite direction.

While in dental school, I was experiencing all this freedom, and I got involved in just the wrong crowd and the party scene. I was going out to the gay clubs, spending most of my free time there. Unfortunately I also began experimenting with drugs, and to support my habit I sold drugs as well.

Well, I thought I could have both, have my cake and eat it, too. I thought I could party and be a graduate student. Well, as we should, I think, just logically know, that’s not a good mix. So I eventually got expelled from dental school and then moved from Louisville to Atlanta, and there I kept doing what I knew how to do best. I was selling drugs, and I became a supplier.

Well, at this point my parents didn’t know that I was doing drugs or selling, but they knew that I needed to know Christ. God had so radically transformed their lives that they knew that that was the main focus, not even my sexuality. That was almost a peripheral issue, but the core issue was my heart.

They prayed for God to do whatever it takes, and that whatever it takes came with a knock on my door. I was arrested, and the federal government confiscated the street value equivalent to 9.1 tons of marijuana. With that amount I was facing ten years to life.

I found myself in jail, and the first thing that I did, I got a phone call, I tried calling home, expecting an earful from my mom. Her first words were, “Are you okay?” Even though my parents were doing everything right and showing me love, but I think that was the first time that I was able just to be away from the world and realize that – all my friends had gone. I tried actually calling my other friends before that. No one answered, but only my parents – my mom answered.

I am reminded of what Paul says in Romans 2:4, that it’s God’s kindness, not God’s anger or his wrath, but it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

Well, in prison one day I found a Bible in the trashcan and began reading it. It began to convict me. Really, I would never have picked up that Bible from the trashcan if it wasn’t for the testimony and the witness of my parents, who lived the gospel before they preached the gospel to me.

I began reading it, and it brought God’s truth to the reality of my sin. I realized that all along I had put my sole identity in my sexuality. It wasn’t just what I felt. It wasn’t just what I did. It was who I was. Everything about me was gay. All my friends were gay, my whole community. I lived in an apartment complex that was 90 percent or more gay. The community that I lived in, the town that I lived in, in Atlanta, Midtown, was predominantly gay men. I worked out at a gay gym. I went to a gay Kroger.

And this was such a part of who I was that I couldn’t separate it from who I was. I realized that as I read God’s word that my sexuality shouldn’t be who I am, that my identity needed to be in Jesus Christ alone.

I also, as I kept reading God’s word, had a paradigm shift because I had always thought that heterosexuality was the norm, not only the norm but God’s standard. But as I read through scripture I realized that even if I had heterosexual feelings, I would still need to flee temptation and put to death my sin nature, as we all do.

I realized heterosexuality isn’t the goal, but I realized that holiness is the goal. God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” So the opposite of heterosexuality is not homosexuality, but the opposite of homosexuality is holiness. I say the opposite of any sin struggle is holiness.

That really helped me to frame not only my experiences but my sexuality and my sin and the fact that I’m an image of God and the gospel and Christ in line with the way that God intended, that I am an image-bearer of God with infinite value because of – and due dignity, but I also have a sin nature.

That sin nature expresses itself differently in each person, and for me one of those expressions was my attraction to the same sex. I realized that that expression that was a result of my fall is not who I am, but it has to be something that I would put to death by the power of Christ.

So in prison I became a Christian. I was actually called to ministry while I was in prison and had the opportunity to go to Moody after prison because I never got my bachelor’s before going to dental school before that. Then after that I went to get my master’s in exegesis from Wheaton, and then I just received my doctorate in ministry a few years ago, which actually my doctorate was focusing on – it’s the only study on reducing marginalization at Christian colleges and universities for people who identify as LGB or are same-sex-attracted.

Darrell Bock
So that’s produced a book as well, I take it?
Christopher Yuan
Yes, it was just released last year.
Darrell Bock
And the title of it is?
Christopher Yuan
It’s a long title. It’s Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: A Qualitative Study of Reducing Marginalization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Same-Sex-Attracted Students at Christian Colleges and Universities.
Darrell Bock
Sounds like the title of a doctor –
Christopher Yuan
Yeah. Any doctoral dissertation has to be long, right?
Darrell Bock
That’s right. You can’t print it on the program when the student graduates.
Christopher Yuan
No, of course not.
Darrell Bock
That’s great. So talk a little bit about your ministry now. You go literally around the world talking about these issues and trying to help the church deal with this. What would you say are some of the major themes that you try and inject into the conversation as you travel and minister in the wide array of settings that you do?
Christopher Yuan
Well, the contexts that my parents and I are invited to speak are Christian, either the church or a Christian college or seminary or a Christian conference. We’re invited because people agree with our position. I’m not invited by people who don’t agree to my position, whether they’re unbelievers or even maybe more liberal Christians. I’m not invited.

So these are people who understand – who have a high view of scripture, and they understand biblical sexuality, that sexual intimacy is reserved for husband and wife in marriage. That’s not something that’s just an isolated text, but it’s a clear theme from the beginning of Genesis all the way through Revelation.

So they understand that component, but maybe what they might be missing or might not understand how to put in practical ways for their church to understand is how to minister to those within the church that might experience attraction to the same sex or how to then share Christ with those, because oftentimes we understand the truth. We understand morality. But then how that plays out in daily life is a little bit more vague. So that’s the focus of our ministry of what we do.

Darrell Bock
So you’re trying to help both understand the nature of the issue biblically, because you do have a biblical studies background, and yet on the other hand deal with the pastoral realities of what it means. I say there are three levels to the conversation. There’s the biblical level: This is what the Bible says.

There’s the legal/cultural element of this is what’s going on in our world, and these are the laws attached to it. Of course there’s been a big change in our lifetime on that score. And then there’s the pastoral problem. That’s the mom who walks into your office and says, “My son or daughter just came out. What do I do?” And putting all those together in some type of balance is actually a real challenge.

Christopher Yuan
It is.
Darrell Bock
What we have found, and I’m sure this is your experience as well, is almost whenever we put up the banner and say, “This is our topic,” people flock to hear because they’re looking for help.
Christopher Yuan
Yeah, so true, because like we said before, this is not just a hypothetical situation anymore. It’s not abstract. It is very real in people’s lives. Whether they have a son or daughter or brother or sister or cousin or a loved one or neighbor who is gay, they love these people, and they want them to know Christ. So how do we do that? Especially our youth and young adults. They want to know, “Now that we know this truth, how do we apply that?”

I think not only do we need to know what specific texts are and what we need to do ethically and morally, I also make a distinction, and I help people that come and listen, that we make this distinction between the biblical text like what Romans 1 or Leviticus says. But also we need to step back and look at theology because sometimes we’ll look at the biblical texts and say, “Okay, this is what is right or wrong, and this is what we know is truth,” and then we jump to the praxis part. We kind of miss the theology part.

What’s the difference? When I went to Moody, we have the Bible Department and the Theology Department, and I was pretty ignorant then. I was a brand-new Christian. I was like, “What the difference? Aren’t they the same?” It took me some time to realize the difference. One is looking at the text and even looking at the broad view of how the message grows and progresses. Theology is looking at themes throughout.

And so what I think is important when we’re addressing theology before we get to the practice is to understand a very fundamental aspect of theology, which is who we are, anthropology. That’s very simply that – I think many of our listeners and watchers will know – we’re all created in the image of God. That’s Genesis 1, and yet Genesis 3 comes along and the Fall. We all are sinners. We have a sin nature. We can’t separate those two things.

And how does this apply to homosexuality? Well, first of all, if we are all image-bearers – all of us, Christian, non-Christian, those who are converted, who are yet to be converted, who will not be converted – if we’re all image-bearers, well, that means that are loved by God simply for being an image-bearer of God and that we are all due dignity and respect. And so as an image-bearer to another image-bearer, whether they are Christian or not, I need to love that person because they bear the image. They are an image-bearer.

But then we can’t just stop there, because oftentimes progressive Christians, they really love that “image of God” part, but they forget about Genesis 3. Nothing goes forward – we don’t have the gospel, we don’t have Christ, none of that – if we don’t have the reality of the Fall.

The Fall is such a huge part that that has distorted the image of God. It hasn’t erased it, but it’s effaced it. The image of God is there, but it’s been distorted. And so because of that and how that applies to homosexuality, it’s that all of us, whether we have same-sex attractions or whether we have another temptation for sin, are all in the same boat. There is a democratization that happens when we recognize the reality of the Fall.

Darrell Bock
Everybody needs Christ.
Christopher Yuan
Everybody needs Christ.
Darrell Bock
You talk about the theology part of this, and the theological part of it is certainly very, very important. You have some important things to say about identity, about being an image-bearer, about image-bearing being something that’s shared between the man and the woman. We were in a brownbag earlier in which we broached this topic.

But another element of this that I think is important is the idea of you look at Creation in Genesis 1, and it isn’t until we get to the creation of the woman that the creation of humanity is complete. She is said to be a complement and a helper to the man in a way that completes and rounds out the Creation. The image of God is something that is both connected to and yet distinct from each of the genders, which is an interesting idea.

You were developing how you see Genesis 1:27. I’d like to let you repeat that.

Christopher Yuan
Why this is so key, especially in relation to sexuality, is because Jesus is the one that ties that in in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, this parallel passage where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees about divorce. “Can we just have any divorce for whatever reason,” basically is what they’re saying.

And Jesus, instead of saying no, instead of saying, “Divorce is wrong,” what does he do? He gives this robust theology of marriage from where? Genesis.

Darrell Bock
Yeah he starts at the beginning.
Christopher Yuan
It’s amazing. I love this passage and helping dissect it because I think it’s amazing what Jesus is doing. He goes back and he says – we have so low Bible IQ in a sense, generally speaking, among Christians that when people say things, they don’t know – they aren’t able to say, ‘Oh, this is what this person is saying.’ ”

When Jesus says, “The Creator made them male and female, and the two shall become one flesh,” that’s just a really quick statement. A Jew, especially a Pharisee, who memorized the Torah, knew exactly what Jesus was saying.

He was pulling from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 about this not only – “In the beginning, God created in his image – man in his own image.” This is from Genesis 1:27, these three lines. It’s actually poetry. “God created man in his own image.” That’s the first line of poetry, all in Genesis 1:27.

And the second line of poetry, it’s a repetition. As you know, Dr. Bock, Hebrew loves repetition as a form of emphasis. And so basically saying the same statement, but flipping it around. So it’s subject, verb, object, “God created man,” and then the preposition, “in his own image.” And then he flips it around. “In his own image, he created him.” So it’s basically the same.

But then this third line, the tri-colon, is basically this new concept, but basically it’s still the same. So it’s all parallel, but it says, “Male and female he created,” and then, “them.” It changes the pronoun from “he” to “them,” which brings in not only that God created man, Adam, human, in his own image, but then in the image of God, fronting it.

So first it’s God, the emphasis upon God is the one who creates and is the one that created that. But then the second one flips it around, the emphasis upon the image that man is created in. And then the third line brings in the sexual differentiation, which we want to separate that so much, especially not only in light of sexual identity and gender identity, but almost to say that that’s not important.

But there’s no way around getting past the first chapter of the Bible and not seeing that this is not just a part of who we are. It is a clear ontological reality.

Darrell Bock
It’s not a footnote on the image of God.
Christopher Yuan
Not at all. I’m not saying that male and female is the image of God, but when you look at it, there’s such a direct parallel that we cannot separate the image of God apart from sexual differentiation. It is so clearly connected in that verse of Genesis 1:27.
Darrell Bock
I think that middle line is interesting because on the one hand it says, “In the image of God, he created him.” But the “him” here shouldn’t be misread to be just about males. It’s humanity.
Christopher Yuan
Adam, humanity.
Darrell Bock
And then out of that humanity there’s this differentiation. The combination of the two together was designed in Genesis 1 to be that cooperative, relational element by which men and women were to manage the Creation. The exhortation coming out of that passage is to rule the Creation. It’s to manage it well. I tell people the longer I study the Bible, the more important the concept of stewardship becomes in thinking about the theme of the scriptures.

And so God has appointed men and women to manage the Creation well, to work as a team, to live in shalom, to be in shalom with God and to be in shalom with each other, to be at peace with God and at peace with other. In the midst of that differentiation and yet unity, they’re supposed to achieve something that reflects the character and image and nature of God.

Christopher Yuan
Amen. Also about that verse, what Jesus was doing in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, what he was doing is we got in Genesis 2 the two becoming one. We all know that really well. The beauty of what Jesus was doing with saying, “The Creator made them male and female,” is that’s clearly from the text on the image of God.

So what Jesus is doing is he’s actually linking marriage back to the image of God. It’s really beautiful how you have in the beginning the one, the human, Adam, becoming two, and then marriage, then the two becoming one. It’s the only time that you have one equals two and two equals one. It’s beautiful.

Darrell Bock
It’s the new math.
Christopher Yuan
It is the new math. It’s God’s new math. We talk about marriage as being the mystery that Paul talks about in Ephesians of Christ and the love of church. What we have here is Jesus, the perfect theologian, going back to also saying, “Marriage, it is this union, this one flesh,” which also it’s cool how the one flesh from Genesis 2, that they become one flesh.

Actually, right before that Adam is saying, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” So it’s this flesh coming back together that was separated to become male and female and now becoming one, and that is linked back to the image of God, which is quite beautiful.

Darrell Bock
Another feature of course that Jesus is doing is that when he defines that this is marriage, he’s dealing with the divorce question in Mark and in Matthew. He goes back to the beginning. “Well, let’s go back and let’s not talk about what separates. Let’s talk about what God’s intention was in bringing together.”

And in the midst of that, he actually defines what marriage is for us, which in the context of the same-sex discussion, sometimes you get people who are saying, “Well, Jesus never discussed same-sex marriage.” In fact, no, he did. When he discussed marriage and defined it in the way that Genesis does, he also discussed same-sex marriage, and he excluded that phrase from being something that God sees positively.

Christopher Yuan
Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, David Gushee, how he responds. I don’t know if it’s in his book, but I heard him say something at a conference. I wasn’t there, but someone else – I just was on social media. But the way he responds is saying, “Jesus, the answer to that was just divorce. So we shouldn’t read more into it than what he was answering.” And that’s nonsense.
Darrell Bock
Actually, that is nonsense because the whole point of Jesus going back to marriage is the point Jesus is making.
Christopher Yuan
Also, another thing, as you know, being a Luke scholar, is that Jesus, when is he ever limited by the question?
Darrell Bock
Exactly.
Christopher Yuan
How many times throughout the gospels do we have someone asking a question, and he answers with this big kibosh?
Darrell Bock
Because he’s redirecting the attention of where –
Christopher Yuan
The more important part.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Christopher Yuan
Anyway, people might have heard that argument because it sounds very convincing. But if you don’t go to that deeper level, you miss it.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, because his whole point in the answer is if you understood the intent of marriage, then the divorce question might be framed very differently.
Christopher Yuan
It’s devastating.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Let’s talk on the practical side here. I think the way I want to go at this is to say what advice do you give to parents when I’ll say the shock moment comes, that you have a child, they walk in, and they say to you, “I’m gay”? I just can imagine that’s just a disruptor.
Christopher Yuan
It’s devastating.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And so what advice would you give? And alongside of it, what advice would you give to churches to help the parent who finds himself in that situation?
Christopher Yuan
In these situations, which are difficult, especially Christian parents who have raised their kids in the church and taught God’s word to them and the truth about the gospel. It’s never easy when a child walks away from God and walks away from the faith.

So for me, really the main concern is ministering to the parent and helping them, first of all, recognize that they can move forward. Actually, oftentimes what I see in many parents is a lot of guilt and a lot of shame. I think sometimes part of that is placed upon actually by other Christian, and it’s often unsaid: “What did you do wrong? You should have done something better.”

And also a lot of it comes down to – and this is why I think the theological foundation is important because if we approach homosexuality as a developmental problem, that people have same-sex attractions because of something that happened in their childhood, we’re not holding to orthodox Christianity because we know our sin problem doesn’t stem from how we’re raised. Our sin problem comes from the Fall. So that’s really important to help parents see that.

Sometimes I just point-blank tell parents, “It’s not your fault,” because they’re wracked with so much guilt. The father will think, “I wish I would have just stayed home more. I wish I would have went to his baseball games.” Or the mother said, “I wish,” whatever it is. We can play this game, and we can’t change the past. Yes, parents could have done things differently, but that doesn’t prevent your child from being a sinner.

Darrell Bock
It doesn’t change the reality.
Christopher Yuan
It doesn’t change the reality. That’s one of the first things that I just want them – and I have done that several times. Even in a few situations I say those words, and the parents just – they can’t hold it in anymore, because they’ve felt that it is their fault. So that’s one of the first things.

But I also want them to realize that this isn’t the worst sin. Some parents even will be okay with their other son who’s living with their girlfriend. We need to realize that sin is sin. Though this is sin, it’s not the worst sin, and it’s not any sin that the blood of Jesus can’t cover.

I think that’s helpful to be able to take it down from the catastrophe shelf and bring it down to more – this is the world. We live in a broken world, and we need to just know how to best pray for our kids and also helping to frame what is our end goal? What is our telos with our child?

Is it that they would stop – that their gay son would stop dating his boyfriend? No, because even if he did and if he still doesn’t know Christ, even if he got married with a woman and if he still doesn’t know Christ, he’s in the same situation, at least spiritually.

So we help parents, and this helps even the way that we pray because I think prayer is always important. With my mother, she prayed. She fasted every Monday for seven years, once 39 days, praying and fasting. And we need to make sure that we’re also praying the right prayers because how we pray affects how we live and how we interact with a certain person.

I think that prayer shouldn’t be even necessarily focused mainly on sexuality, but it needs to be on their faith, that they would come to know the real Lord, Jesus Christ. Maybe they have lived it, but they never really understood it and grasped it.

For me, I say my biggest sin was not being in a same-sex relationship. My biggest sin was unbelief. So recognizing that and helping parents to see that and then how do we move toward that?

My mother, it was not her preaching the gospel to me, but it was her living the gospel first. Just through their actions, they showed the gospel and the love of God. They waited for God to move in my life, and they knew that it was going to take rock bottom. Not everyone needs rock bottom. I did because I’m pretty stubborn.

But when that rock bottom happened with prison, I turned back home to the family. My parents then had this huge open door for ministry. So it’s waiting for that situation to happen and just hoping that we have such a good relationship with that person, that loved one, that they will look to us.

So whether it’s a breakup or whether they lose their job and they’re down, but they think, “Wow, that friend of mine, there’s something different about her.” They reach out and pick up the phone, and then you have this open door for ministry.

Darrell Bock
So what you’re really saying in part here is that you want to keep the doors open. You want to signal your love, which you have stressed is not the same as approval. Just to make it clear, you said something in the brownbag that I thought was interesting. You go, “Don’t say I love you, but …” because then the person, all they hear is the rest of the sentence. They don’t hear the love.

Say, “I love you.” Show that you love them, and then in the way that you engage, there is the opportunity to show what your values are and your care for the person in the hopes that in a ministry of context that oftentimes involves patience, a door opens up and a real opportunity comes when the person comes to you and is ready to listen.

Christopher Yuan
Yes, exactly. I want people to also understand that I’m not saying don’t ever speak truth. We need to know when is the right time for that, especially when you have a loved one or a good friend that opens up to you about their sexuality. I think during that time, it’s not – I don’t think it’s a good time to then speak about what is sin and what is not sin.

In that very tender, private, sensitive moment, I think just listen. I think maybe later we can have these deeper discussions theology if they’re a Christian or if they’re open to that. But if they’re not Christian, well, then why talk about morality if they don’t – why talk about God’s morality if they don’t even believe in God yet?

Listening is really powerful, and I think we need to as Christians be better listeners because if we listen to others, then they might be willing to listen to us.

Darrell Bock
Exactly. I often say that one of the key elements of any kind of engagement is getting what I call a spiritual GPS on somebody. You just listen, and what you’re doing is you’re listening for the places where bridges might exist to come back into the conversation later.

Another important thing that I think is in the background here is what I like to call crashing the stereotype, which is people, particularly gay people, have an expectation of the way they think Christians will respond if they say something to them. When you don’t respond with the expectation, that kind of throws the person for a loop.

You’ve mentioned this in your own testimony, that when you called your mom from prison you were fully expecting to get I think you said an earful, which I take you weren’t exactly expecting compliments.

Christopher Yuan
No.
Darrell Bock
And so when that didn’t come and she simply asked, “Are you okay,” which communicated all this care and love pouring out in the midst of your painful situation, all of a sudden you realized, “She really does care about me.”
Christopher Yuan
Yeah, it was not what I expected. I think that we need to realize what people in the gay community are expecting. They are expecting for us to say, “You’re living in sin. You’re a sinner.”
Darrell Bock
I call it Jimmy Cagney theology. “You dirty rat, you shouldn’t be doing that.”
Christopher Yuan
Exactly. We need to know the right time and even the right tone. Again, we’re not not talking about sin. And I love a story about D.L. Moody. Someone said about D.L. Moody that only he was able to and had the right to talk about hell because he did it with tears. I don’t think oftentimes when we talk about hell and sin we’re doing it with tears, and we need to because it should really break our hearts what sin has done in the world in our own lives and in others’ lives.

So it really is tone, and it really is preparing the context for which the gospel can be – the best context for the gospel to be shared is in relationship. I think there’s much that we can learn from how we evangelize the gay community with how we evangelize the Muslim community, because I think we’re coming to a part where we’re getting much better at understanding the Muslim community and being able to engage them.

What we do is we have contextualized the gospel for our Muslim friends and neighbors. We’re not changing it, we’re just contextualizing how we share it. The process in which we do that, we will not come at them right away initially and say, “You’re living in sin. Muhammad is a false prophet.” That’s not a good way to share the gospel with a Muslim.

Darrell Bock
That might cause a phaser shield to go up.
Christopher Yuan
Immediately. And yet we’re okay with when you have a Muslim friend and people say, “I haven’t talked about Jesus yet.”

No one says, “Well, you need to tell them.” But yet we do that with the gay community. The reason why I think they’re very similar is that the Muslims have this misunderstanding that somehow we are their enemy or we hate them, and they have reason to. We haven’t been good neighbors, and we have history as well that unfortunately they remember with the Crusades.

The gay community, it’s more fresh. They do believe we hate them. So we need to contextualize the gospel with them. That’s why we come heavy with relationship initially to wait for that opportunity. That’s not unbiblical to wait for that opportunity since it’s God who brings that opportunity to open that door to then be able to share about – not about morality or immorality, but share about Jesus.

Darrell Bock
Tone matters. There are a ton of texts that mention this, and I like to point them out. The 1 Peter 3 passage, “Be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you, yet do it with meekness and respect.” And then Colossians 3 talks about when the opportunity comes that we’re supposed to be gracious to all.

Literally Galatians 6:10 says we’re supposed to do good to everybody, especially to those of the faith. I tell people “all” is a technical term. You look it up in the Bible, it kind of means everyone. There’s no one excluded.

So there’s this way of engagement in which I think one of the challenges of this entire area is that the gospel challenges people. It does inherently. But the tension is how do I challenge someone and yet at the same time extend the hand of invitation that’s at the core of the gospel?

The gospel is about hope. The gospel is about gaining a capability you wouldn’t have otherwise. Romans 1:16 says, “We’re not ashamed of the gospel because the power of God unto salvation,” talking about the capability of God, the gift of the Spirit that enables us to walk in ways we couldn’t otherwise. Or the ministry of reconciliation that we get from 2 Corinthians 5. We have this ministry of reconciliation.

So our goal is to reconnect people with the living God. That’s the hope. That’s the enablement. When we do that, we’re challenging people, but we’re always challenging people to enter into a space that will help them. I think sometimes the static of our critique and our challenge gets so loud you don’t hear the hope. You don’t hear the reconciliation. You don’t hear the capability that the gospel is able to provide, and you never get to the positive side of your message. When that happens, you haven’t done a good job of representing what the gospel is all about.

Christopher Yuan
Amen.
Darrell Bock
So let’s talk about churches for a second, and let’s talk about two groups. We suggested a little bit about the approach that might be needed for people who are completely outside the church, and then there’s a different approach that’s needed for people who are inside the church.

So let’s talk about those in turn. Let’s deal first with those who are inside the church, those who are open and wrestling. How do you best engage people in that spot?

Christopher Yuan
Well, I think first we need to make sure that our churches are a place where it is a safe and redemptive place for people to be open about whatever sin struggle. That was part of my doctoral research. There’s a huge sense of stigma and marginalization for people just because they have a same-sex attraction that they are less than or that there’s really something very aberrant with who they are, and yet they’re just a sinner like anyone else who’s struggling with the effects of the Fall.
Darrell Bock
We all start in the same place.
Christopher Yuan
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
We all need Christ.
Christopher Yuan
I think we need to make sure that we are a place where people – the gay community, they celebrate coming out of the closet. I think there’s a sense where we can almost learn from the gay community. I think Christians, we need to come out of the closet of whatever sin we’re struggling with, but surrender to Christ. That’s the distinction. We need to stop wearing our mask and pretending we’re perfect, that we are broken. We all need Christ.

That’s important that we have that – I talk about that I believe it should be the church that’s the safest place in the world. And the question is are we? Are we safe? So if someone is coming, I think I want to help them to realize – again, it’s listening. We need to know where they’re at because not everyone is the same. You might have some who think that they are just so different from anyone else, and they just want to be like the next person who doesn’t struggle with this.

I want them to know, no, we all have some sin that we’re struggling with. God can use that to refine us and strengthen us. But they’re not so much different from the next person. The details of what struggle you might have might look a little different, but at the end of the day it’s still sin. We still have to mortify our sin nature and our flesh and choose Christ over our temptations.

Some people might think, “Well, I wanted – God says I can never get married.”

In those situations, I tell them, “Let’s not even think about that. Let’s just focus upon today, and let’s grow in your spiritual knowledge of God and grow in that.”

But don’t limit God, because I think some people will say, “I can never get married, and so I’ll just be single for the rest of my life.”

I say, “You know what, we don’t know. I know too many people who have been surprised by God.”

They say, “This is the way that it’s supposed to be,” but then God changes. So I say let’s not plan our future. Let’s just live one day at a time. I think that’s what Christ means by, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”

But then on the other hand, we have people that want to get married because they think that’s the solution. We want to move people away from the extremes and to realize that don’t fixate on the future, don’t fixate on the past, but fixate today that God has given us.

Darrell Bock
There’s another emphasis that you talk about regularly that I think is important here, and that is that the church needs a robust theology of singleness of the midst of all this. The tendency to elevate the family and elevate marriage to such an extent that you leave the impression that if a person is single, somehow they’ve fallen short of the glory and ways of God, which certainly doesn’t reflect 1 Corinthian 7. There’s a very important role for having what I consider to be a balanced anthropology and a balanced theology of relationships in which singleness is elevated as an opportunity to serve the Lord, to be fulfilled, all the things that come with it.
Christopher Yuan
We talk about marriage as something that points to God and points to Christ. I also believe that actually singleness lived well should point us to Christ in that I may be forgoing things presently, and not necessarily even by choice. For most Christian singles that I know, it’s not by choice. But they are forgoing certain blessings and certain things of this world – marriage, physical intimacy, children – and yet if we are still able to have joy in our life, that gives glory to God.

So just as marriage done well gives glory to God, I think singleness done well also gives glory to God. This is played out in our churches. I really think if we don’t get singleness right, I don’t even know if we’re ready to address this issue of homosexuality or even sexual brokenness.

Darrell Bock
I’m sitting here smiling inside because I’m sitting here thinking I know lots of churches that will not hire staff people who are single, which means they wouldn’t have hired Jesus.
Christopher Yuan
Or Paul.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Christopher Yuan
It becomes such a requirement, and sometimes it’s unsaid. I know men who have graduated from seminary in Moody or in Dallas where they’re single and they apply and no one hires them. They’re very capable young men, but they won’t be hired because they’re single. It’s taking I think a text out of context and also this misunderstanding that somehow single men are more dangerous than married men. That’s such a lie.
Darrell Bock
Now we don’t have a lot of time, but let’s talk about the group that is outside the church and probably has a lot of stereotypes of what Christians are about. How do you step into ministry with this group?
Christopher Yuan
Well, I think we need to change our mindset into less thinking about a program that a church can do as a group to go in and think more about how the early church shared the gospel. It was one on one. I think that’s a very effective way, not to say that open air is effective or even going as a group to a certain community.

That’s also effective, but I think we need to contextualize the gospel and realize that those programs or doing it as a group into the gay community wouldn’t be the most effective way because there is a sense when – I believe in this herd mentality. When it’s a group with another group, you lose the individual. You lose being able to get really down into each person’s soul, in a sense.

I believe many of your listeners right now and watchers that they have people in their life. I can’t reach that person as the mother or the friend or the coworker who has a gay friend and how they can reach them, because they already have something established, a relationship. I think that’s really key, that we need to –

Darrell Bock
Personalize that.
Christopher Yuan
Personalize it and equip in that way. I think that we need to preach from the pulpit. Go this week to your gay neighbor. Invite them out for coffee. I think that needs to be said because many Christians think, “I can’t do that because I’ll be condoning their sin.”

Jokingly I say, “You’re not going to be condoning their sin because the last time I checked, we usually have sinners over for dinner.”

Christopher Yuan
It’s nothing new. You’re not doing the sin. You’re just building a relationship and trust so that we can share the gospel.
Darrell Bock
Well, Chris, it’s been fabulous to have you with us today on the podcast and to think about some of these things. We’ve tried to look at this from about every angle possible. We think it’s one of the most challenging areas the church faces today, and you certainly have performed a wonderful service to the church, you and your family, by sharing your story and telling us about what’s going on.

We hope that these reflections on ministering in this context, both the theological basis of the importance of Genesis 1 and 2 as well as thinking through the matters of tone, help you think about how to minister, particularly in a personal way and a very relational way, with gay people who you might know who really have one particular area of sin. But we all are sinners and are in need of Christ.

So we hope you’ve enjoyed being with us today on The Table, and we hope to see you 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 40 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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