How to respond:
When a Christian Brother or Sister Opens Up about Their Sexuality
By Dr. Christopher Yuan
Speaker, Author, Bible Professor | Bearer of Christ Ministries | christopheryuan.com
Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story
Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope
In 1993, I announced to my unbelieving parents that I was gay. This led to massive disruption in our family, to put it lightly. My family fully rejected me, but now with no more secrets, I felt unimpeded to fully embrace “who I was.” This new freedom propelled me down a path of self-destruction. However, this ultimately became the catalyst that led each one of us, one by one, to the Lord.
Contrary to most stereotypes within the church, once my mom discovered God’s love for her, she knew she could do nothing other than love her gay son too. Even though I was expelled from school and working with drug dealers, she understood my biggest sin was unbelief—not my rebellious actions or same-sex behavior. She believed that what I needed more than anything else was God’s gracious gift of faith to believe Jesus.
A mother’s prayer
My mother prayed a bold prayer: “Lord, do whatever it takes to bring this prodigal son to you.” The miracle in answer to her prayers came in an unexpected way: I was arrested for drug dealing. In jail, I received the dark news that I was HIV-positive. That night, as I lay in bed in a prison cell, I noticed something scribbled on the metal bunk above me: “If you’re bored, read Jeremiah 29:11.” So I did, and was intrigued by the promise I read there: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
A turning point
I read the Bible more and more. As I did, I realized I’d placed my identity in the wrong thing. The LGBTQ community emphasizes that sexuality is the core of our identity, but God’s Word paints quite a different picture. My true identity is in Jesus Christ alone.
Ultimately, upon my release from jail, I committed to studying and submitting to biblical and theological truth. I enrolled in Bible college and later seminary. Over the years, God has given back the years the locusts had taken away. My parents and I now travel around the world as a two-generational ministry, communicating God’s grace and God’s truth on biblical sexuality!
How to Respond When a Friend Opens Up
This may go without saying, but Christians can be overwhelmed when receiving this news from a loved one. Just remember: we’re all sinners. Your loved one’s struggle is just that: a sin struggle. Because we all are tempted with sin, we all need the Holy Spirit to empower us to flee daily from illicit behavior and desire. As you’re listening to your loved one, reflect Jesus who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Don’t forget that our Father is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Do your best to love in this way.
Thank Your Friend
Opening up with a Christian friend about same-sex attractions can be one of the scariest things to do. Imagine the layers upon layers of stigma and shame they’ve experienced. Most likely, it took months for your friend to build up the courage to confide in you. But the fact that your loved one opened up to you speaks volumes about you—you’re someone they can trust. Tell them how much you appreciate being invited to journey with them. Commit to walking with them through the highs and the lows.
Be a Friend, Not an Expert
If you’ve never experienced same-sex attractions, you may feel ill equipped to help your friend. But here’s the thing: Satan wants to immobilize us into inaction, and this is one of his best tactics.
Admit that you don’t know personally what it’s like to experience same-sex attractions, but you are a sinner and you know what it’s like to struggle with sin. From God’s eyes, there’s nothing that unique about their sin versus yours.
No Christian should have to bear a burden by himself. Be sure to tell your loved one or friend, “You’re not alone. I don’t know all there is to know about this, but I know Jesus, and I want to walk with you to Him.” These words can be life for someone. Then, whatever you commit to do, follow through on it.
We often give the false impression that coming to Jesus means no more problems, no more struggles—as if we can just “pray away the gay.” This lie has led many with same-sex attractions to give up on Christianity, because it didn’t “work.”
We read the Bible and pray so that we’re firmly grounded in God’s truth when—not if—difficulties come. The Christian life doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted; it means you have the Spirit with you when you are.
Don’t Focus on the Externals
Externals are mannerisms: particular ways of walking, talking, or dressing. We can focus so much on these external things that we forget about the internal matters of the heart.
Unfortunately, we’ve taken most of our cues for masculinity and femininity from culture. Here in America, masculine means being rough, tough, not emotional, and not artistic. The quintessential man is a football player or construction worker. Yet in Asia, these two examples are considered not masculine but barbaric!
Biblical paradigms for artistic and emotional men
Who says that an artistic man can’t be masculine? Jubal was “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (Genesis 4:21). Moses led Israel in a song of victory over Egypt (Exodus 15:1–18). David was very skilled at the harp and wrote many psalms. He also assigned men to be musicians in the temple (1 Chronicles 25:1–31).
Who says that men cannot be emotional? Many of the prophets, such as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah, were not afraid to express their emotions through tears (Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 1:4; Lamentations 1:16). Even Jesus himself wept (John 11:35).
David, the sensitive man after God’s heart
King David was known for having a heart after God. He’s famous for his brave exploits—when he singlehandedly fought a lion to protect his sheep or bravely defied the giant Goliath. But David was also known for being highly sensitive. He probably exhibited traits that our Western culture would consider inappropriate for a real “man’s man.” Had David grown up today, kids probably would have teased him for being effeminate, even calling him a sissy.
The ways one talks, walks, dresses, and grows hair are not the main things to focus on. The gospel is, after all, a message about receiving a new heart. When we overemphasize the externals, we miss out on the power of the gospel and stifle true change. Gospel change occurs from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Ask About Faith
Asking the following question will help get at the heart of the matter and is like a barometer for your loved one’s spiritual health: “How does your faith fit into all of this?” In other words, is your loved one conforming sexuality to the truth of Scripture, or are they conforming the truth of Scripture to sexuality? It’s a battle of realities: desire versus truth. Which reality will rule his heart?
If your loved one tells you their faith is their anchor in temptation and they’re committed to live according to God’s truth, they are in a good place. However, if your loved one is questioning biblical sexuality, you may need to go back to the basics. The focus will need to turn toward outreach and evangelism instead of like-minded support against temptation.
Point to Christ
At the heart of the Christian life is the call to imitate Christ. Jesus is the end goal of the Christian life. I do not put my identity in my sexuality. My identity is not gay, ex-gay, or even heterosexual, for that matter. I believe my same-sex sexual and romantic desires are a result of the fall and they arise from my sin nature; therefore must be put to death every day. But at the end of the day, my sexuality is not my biggest issue.
The biggest issue for all of us—same-sex or opposite-sex attracted—is whether we’re truly following Christ or not. Jesus Christ is our destination. He is our end goal. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. We are running the race and striving to cross the finish line. The family of the redeemed stand in the risen Christ alone. Our finish line is Christ and his body. It is for this reality I’m willing to die. And it is for this reality I live.
More about me
For more on how to better ministry to Christians who experience same-sex attractions and how to share Christ to those in the gay community, read my newest book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. My first book which I co-authored with my mother, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, chronicles our journeys from unbelief to belief.
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Dr. Christopher Yuan
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Dr. Christopher Yuan has taught the Bible at Moody Bible Institute for over ten years and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks at conferences, on college campuses, and in churches. He 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 (100,000 copies sold and now in seven languages). He is also the author of Giving a Voice to the Voiceless. 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. Dr. Yuan’s newest book is Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story.
He has authored two books: