Not that long ago, Christopher Yuan was sitting in prison in Atlanta, convicted for dealing drugs. During his incarceration, he found out he was HIV-positive.
Today, Yuan teaches at Moody Bible Institute and is working toward a doctorate of ministry at Bethel Seminary. He shares his incredible story of transformation on college campuses, in churches and in prisons.
In the new book Out of a Far Country: A gay son’s journey to God. A broken mother’s search for hope, Yuan and his mom, Angela, share their perspectives on God’s redemptive love.
1. Tell us some of your story.
I was about 9 years old when I first came across pornography. I stumbled across it at a family friend’s house. Even though it was pornography with mostly women, there were a few pictures of men, and that was when I noticed I had attraction toward the same sex.
At 9 years old, sex was not something that I spoke with my parents, with my sibling, with my friends. It was quite scary for me and confusing. But I knew that I was different, and I knew there was something abnormal about me or wrong. I didn’t tell anyone and felt very ashamed about it. I stuffed it down for decades.
Finally when I moved to Louisville, Ky., and started dental school, I came out of the closet. I finally felt free to be who I wanted to be. I felt accepted by the gay community.
2. You came out to your parents in 1993. Tell us about that.
My mother had found some gay pornography in my room, and she confronted me. So I just matter-of-factly told her, “Yeah, it’s true. I am gay. So what?” That just crushed my mother. My parents were not Christian and about to get a divorce. My mother’s life, in her mind, was just not worth living. She had resolved to end her life.
Fortunately, God saved her, and it was through that crisis that God brought her to Himself. And then eventually my father became a Christian, my brother became a Christian, and I just headed further and further away from them and from God, wanting nothing to do with religion. I kept living as a gay man.
Outside the Christian circle, the impression is that Christians do no love homosexuals. And yet it was the exact opposite of what happened with my mother. Before she came to Christ, she could not find it in herself to love me. Once she came to Christ, she came to the realization that if God loved her unconditionally even though she was imperfect and she was a sinner, then she could do nothing else but to love me.
She had a 180-degree turn, and it threw me totally off-guard. She kept pursuing me, but what I really wanted was to disown my parents so I could have freedom. That’s why when we wrote the book, we wanted to be sure to balance the perspectives of mother and son and show (that) the same circumstances and the same situation can come to completely opposite perceptions.
3. How long before God started tugging on your heart?
It was actually several years. My mom and dad kept praying for me. I unfortunately got involved in selling drugs while I was in dental school and was expelled just three months before I should have received my dental doctorate. All this time, my parents were trying to share the love of Christ with me.
I moved to Atlanta in ’96. In my mind, I was invincible. I had become larger than life and had become god. I had everything the world could offer: the money, the fame, the drugs, the sex. And I thought I was happy. Eventually, it caught up with me. I was arrested, and it was in jail that I found all my friends who I thought would never desert me did desert me. And the only people left were my parents. They were the only ones that came to visit me.
I found a Bible in a garbage can and started reading — not thinking that this would change my life, that this was the Word of God. But I had tons of time on my hands, so I kept reading. And the Bible convicted me and challenged my rebellion.
Because I was so hard-headed and my heart was so hardened, it took a long time for me to let God in and for me to let go of all my idols and my dependencies. So that first year of prison, God was prying my hands off the things that I was holding so close. Drugs was the first thing. The last thing was my sexuality. I felt like I could not let go, because that was the core part of who I was. I had put my entire identity in my sexuality. I asked myself who am I apart from sexuality. I didn’t really have an answer and that did concern me. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit was in me to bring me to that realization.
4. So what happened next?
As I was reading Scripture, I realized that homosexuality was not something that God had blessed or condones. I then had to make that decision: Am I going to put my identity in Christ, or am I going to put my identity in my sexuality? God drew me to putting my identity in Christ.
A passage that has such meaning for me, back then and still today, is when God tells us to, “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). God was calling me to a life of holiness and obedience, and He would give me the grace to do so. I do believe that God is able to change my affection toward anything, but my obedience is not contingent upon God making that change.
He has called us to holy sexuality. If you’re married, (it means) complete and utter faithfulness to your spouse; if you’re single, complete faithfulness to the Lord through celibacy. God gives us two options, and those options aren’t unreasonable or unfair.
Right now, I’m single. God may bring a woman into my life. And if He does, I know that He will provide all the affections that I need to be with her.
5. What would you say to parents who may have just received word that their son or daughter is gay-identified?
If they’re still in the home, there’s still time to mold them and to shape them. But if they’re adults, we need to realize that we can’t change our children; only God can change them. What I’d like to help parents see (is that) sexuality is not really the core issue. The core issue is their need, and all of our need, to submit and completely surrender all that we are to Christ.
Christ says clearly in the Gospels what it means to be a follower. He says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” And that’s not an easy task. We want things to be easy, and most of the time they’re not. As we deal with our children that are struggling and trying to live a faithful life or children that are wayward, we need to put the focus on the right thing — the need to surrender all that we have to Christ.
Sometimes, we get the steps out of order and want to clean people up before we bring them to Christ. In order for us to have a moral society, it’s Christ first. And that should always be our No. 1 priority. Bringing God’s Kingdom to where we’re at (happens) through the spreading of the Good News of Christ and being redemptive in our message.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit Christopher Yuan’s website.