I had a lengthy discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan about his experience as a same-sex attracted Christian and his new book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. Make sure to read parts one, two and three first, as this picks up right where we left off! Here in part four, Dr. Yuan describes a vision for those with same-sex attraction. To hear the whole interview when it goes live, subscribe to my podcast here!
Ethan: You talked about how the goal of loving a same-sex attracted person should not be to make them heterosexual, or to convince them to be celibate for life. The way I interpreted that is that our call should be to change their vision, however, it is not just to change their vision toward the opposite sex. We aren’t called to make a guy like girls, or a girl like guys. We should try to change their vision, like the hymn says, to be looking at Christ rather than seeing their sexuality as their all-defining, all-powerful state or identity by which to define themselves. It’s about changing their vision, but maybe not in the way that we might think.
Dr. Yuan: Right. I think we need to have a biblical definition of change, because change does not mean that you become a Christian and then are no longer tempted in any way. That’s not biblical. If anything, change will mean that you will struggle, you will be tempted. The New Testament is very clear about that. You will have trials and suffering. But that doesn’t mean that you should still be in bondage to sin. Sin and temptation are not the same thing, and to help us understand that, a person with same-sex attractions should not have the goal of becoming straight, they should have the goal of becoming holy. As a matter of fact, that should be the goal of everyone.
I also like how you said that the goal for a person with same-sex attractions isn’t to become heterosexual, but it also isn’t to be celibate for their whole life. I mean, aren’t those their options? But I don’t use the word ‘celibacy.’ ‘Celibacy’ has grown into a different definition, especially in light of all the scandals with priests in the Roman Catholic Church. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with the term ‘celibacy.’ It doesn’t just mean not being married or not having sex, it has come to mean this chosen life-long vocation to be unmarried for the rest of your life. I don’t find that to be something that is necessarily biblical. I don’t see that in Scripture. Not to say that someone couldn’t commit to that for God’s glory, but I don’t see where someone needs to commit to that as a lifelong calling. Even in 1 Corinthians 7, as I mention in the book, Paul is not talking about a calling to be single, but actually the call of salvation if you look there at the middle of the chapter.
I prefer the term ‘singleness.’ So what is it that God is calling us to, then? Simply to be holy. So that means, I’m not going to plan out what I’m going to do in ten years, because I have no clue! I might not even be here! I might be married, who knows? But I might be single as well, and either way, praise the Lord. I’m going to serve God in whatever condition I find myself in. That, I think, is the message that Paul is giving in 1 Corinthians 7: Be content in whatever situation you are in. Don’t be so consumed with changing your status because that’s not as important. What’s important? The call of salvation. Knowing that we are His and He is ours. That’s the key aspect.
Changing your vision is a good way to put it. ‘Be thou our vision;’ our vision needs to be Christ. Actually that fits really well with one of the things I ended with, that we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12 says that as we’re running the race, we need to fix our eyes on the prize, you have to fix your eyes on Jesus. Why? Because that’s who we strive to be every day; that is our final destination and end goal. And if Christ is our end goal and every day we’re focusing on Him as opposed to—as a lot of young men will focus on—‘God help me today so I don’t look at porn, help me today so I don’t do whatever.’ That’s too low of a goal. Our goal has to be perfection and holiness, which is Christ. When we fixate on Him, God will align us and put everything else in place.
I’m reminded of a pastor in Chicago who always said, “Right now you’re a prostitute. Don’t aspire to be a Pharisee.” If you just clench your fists and try hard not to sin, you’re just switching from one extreme to the other. And God’s not too stoked about that one either. It’s all about coming back to Jesus and just receiving from Him, I think.
Anyway, thanks so much for your time. Is there anything else that you want to throw out there for everyone before we wrap up?
Yah, I think I touched on it a little bit, and this is where my book may stand out a little bit, because I do find this missing in a lot of these books on sexuality today, and that is the body of Christ. The local church is missing from this conversation. There is a lot of talk these days about making these ‘covenant friendships,’ or ‘spiritual friendships,’ and I struggle with that because there’s really little or no mention of the Church. Why is that important? Because today, especially for Millennials, we think we can live the Christian life without the body of Christ. And here’s the reality: You cannot love Christ without loving His body. You can’t be intimate with Him without being intimate with the body of Christ.
I’ve heard this a lot, even students will say, “I don’t need the local church. You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” True. However, you should desire to be in the church. But then they’ll say, “Well I have my friends and we are the body of Christ.” That’s actually not true. Because me and my best friends are actually not the body of Christ, we are still just members of the body of Christ. We could be a foot or a finger or a nose, but it’s only the local church which is the body of Christ. We need that for many reasons: Accountability, pastoral guidance, discipline…
Yes! It’s only in the local church where we are preached to, and we receive the Word of God. I don’t know any friends that sit there and preach to each other. That would be awkward. There are many aspects where we really need the local church, and that’s why it’s important. And I included that as part of my solution. We may not necessarily need closer friends, but we need to live as true brothers and sisters in Christ, in the body of Christ as a spiritual family. That’s the only true and eternal family.
You know Dr. Clark from Moody? He always said, “I could do life apart from my pinky, but I prefer not to. I prefer to keep it attached to my body.”
Well thanks again, Dr. Yuan, for your time and energy here.
Thanks again for doing this! I appreciated having you at Moody and it’s really awesome to see God working through you now as a post-Moody alumnus!