I wrote a blog on January 16 titled: “A Conference on Faith and Sexuality.” It was about a local Saturday seminar on same-sex relationships and the church. The host church, Gary Memorial Methodist Church in Wheaton, invited four speakers to give biblical and theological presentations. The speakers clearly held different perspectives. The last of the four speakers was Christopher Yuan. I was moved to my depths by the story Chris told of a life of homosexual practice and drug dealing. After three years in prison, an HIV-positive blood test result, and an obvious conversion to Christ, Chris entered into a new Christian lifestyle.
Now you can read Chris’ moving account of this conversion in his new book, Out of a Far Country (Waterbrook Press, 2011), which comes out May 3. The story is told by both Chris and his mother Angela. The foreword to their new book is written by Kay Warren.
Chris is one of two sons of Chinese immigrants. His father, as my father was in his professional career, is a dentist. Angela assisted Dr. Yuan in his practice. Chris’ dad had a nominal Catholic background but Angela was an atheist. Chris was raised in a context without the church or any real expressions of faith. At an early age Chris discovered that he had an attraction to other boys. He tried dating girls but still felt strongly attracted to guys. His mother was, in her own testimony, what we rightly call a “controlling mom.” The more she tried to control her own life, and that of her son Chris, the worse things got. Then Chris came home from dental school in Louisville, Kentucky, and “came out of the closet” about his sexuality. Prepared by his homosexual friends for total rejection this is what he got so he stormed away from his family looking for love, acceptance and a new family identity in the gay community. Angela’s life then spiraled out of control even more then ever once she began to deal with her feelings about her husband and her son. She determined to take her own life in her despair. In his mercy God intervened and Angela became a devout follower of Jesus as Lord. She had a lot of things that needed changing. She began to absorb the Scriptures and grow in God’s grace. Her marriage was turned around, hope became her spiritual strength and Chris became the focus of her regular prayer and fasting times alone.
Hearing this story from the perspective of a heart-broken mother, and a rebellious son who finally came home to Christ, makes this one of the most unique accounts of a prodigal’s conversion that I’ve read in a modern account. I would not hesitate to give this book to parents or even to older (young adolescent) children. Some may question the wisdom of older children, say 12 or 13, reading a book like this but this is a book that explains how sexuality identity can destroy lives. And it explains how God’s grace puts them back together again. It is not so much a book about homosexuality, as such, but a testimony that homosexual advocates should be encouraged to read since the story truly rises above the various debates and takes the reader into two human hearts longing for God and his glory above the clamor of modern disagreement.
Does Chris have a view about homosexual identity? Yes, and it seems that he accepts the fact that he has homosexual desires regardless of how this happened. (He doesn’t address the debates about how a person becomes homosexual, simply saying he was drawn to boys and men.)
Does Chris have a view about homosexual practice? Yes, he does. He shares it in only a few pages without the typical polemical rhetoric. He tells of searching the Bible soon after his conversion asking “How should I now live?” He began with the feeling that it would be pleasing to God for him to remain a practicing homosexual and a follower of Christ. He ends, without telling you all the turns in the road, saying he came to believe that he was called to a higher standard of sexual purity thus he should stop practicing same-sex intercourse. This has led him to become a celibate in the years that followed his conversion. He says nothing about desiring marriage, about changing his sexual identity per se, etc. What makes his story so compelling to me is that he never engages in attacks on other views and people but very simply allows his story to stand for what it is, the story of a remarkably changed man. The reader can judge what they will about Chris and his life but you can be sure of this – he is a man who knows who he is in Christ and is clearly following holiness as he understands it in Scripture. Honestly, this makes the book unique since it is a story, not a biblical defense or apologetic in the normal sense of these terms.
Chris and Angela cast an extremely compelling vision of God’s love, God’s grace and God’s holiness. Their book really speaks to prodigals of all kinds and to the parents of prodigals. And yes, it speaks to those who want to minister to the gay community in a way that is not based on rancorous polemical stereotypes and arguments.
After attending Moody Bible Institute Chris did an M.A. in biblical exegesis at Wheaton College Graduate School, as a Charles Colson Scholar. (This is a program designed for ex-convicts). He is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul (MN) and is teaching at Moody Bible Institute. He also travels with his mom speaking to churches, conferences and youth groups about God’s desire for all prodigals to come home to him.
I recently had lunch with Chris and can tell you he is the real person this story presents him to be I love him as a brother and friend and hope you will read his story and pray for both Chris and Angela. You can follow Chris on his blog. If you need a powerful speaker on the themes addressed in this book he is a great choice. You can see his amazing story, from Saddleback Church, on YouTube.