Conversations in the Church on same-sex attraction: How can we do better?
In our article “How do we share our views on same-sex attraction in a loving way?”, we shared Dr Christopher Yuan’s advice on how we can share the gospel with non-believers who identify as gay.
In this article, we focus on how we can have loving conversations with Christians who are struggling with same-sex attractions.
A renowned speaker on faith and sexuality, Dr Yuan has authored two books based on his theological expertise as well as his personal experience: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and Holy Sexuality And The Gospel.
Here, he recommends three things for us to remember as we communicate God’s heart to our brothers and sisters in Christ on singleness, standards for sexuality and sanctification.
SINGLEHOOD SHOULD BE PRESENTED RIGHTLY
What does same-sex attraction have to do with singlehood? A lot.
Dr Yuan pointed out that it is God’s will for people not to be in same-sex relationships, which means that a person who experiences these attractions would be single for a period of time, if not longer.
“And if so, do we have a healthy place for singles to thrive in a Christian community today?” he asked, lamenting how society often equates singleness to loneliness, and singles as second-class citizens.
Do we have a healthy place for singles to thrive in a Christian community today?
“So many people struggle with the idea that singlehood is a gift. Marriage is a gift, yes. But singlehood? No.”
“Instead you know what people say?” he paused. “It’s a calling.”
“I don’t know if that’s the right message we should be communicating – that you have to be sure that you’re ‘called’ to be single,” he questioned.
Hence when we address sexuality, singlehood must also be addressed and spoken of accurately.
GOD’S STANDARDS FOR SEXUALITY APPLY TO ALL PEOPLE
We also need to be clear that God calls all people to the same standards when it comes to sexuality.
Instead of viewing this as a choice between heterosexuality and homosexuality, Dr Yuan implored his audience to think biblically.
“Heterosexuality means being attracted to someone of the opposite sex. That’s so broad – it can include sleeping with half a dozen women. But such heterosexual behaviour is sinful in God’s eyes!” he exclaimed.
Instead, Dr Yuan challenged everyone to look at this issue through the lens of the Bible. Holy sexuality is what should be pursued.
Chastity in singleness, or faithfulness in marriage, are the only two paths God has laid out on how we should live our lives in relation to our sexuality, he summarised.
“If you’re single, you live sexually abstinent. If you’re married, be faithful to your spouse of the opposite sex.”
WE’RE ALL WORKS IN PROGRESS
Let’s also be consistent in how we treat people who are in the process of being transformed, urged Dr Yuan.
He asked: “What if you had a friend who is a drunk, comes to Christ and stops drinking. And after years of sobriety, he still admits that he is tempted to drink but he doesn’t.
“Would we tell him that he hasn’t been changed? Would we lay our hands on him and tell him he needs deliverance? Remember Jesus was tempted in every respect, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).”
The application of the principle must be the same, Dr Yuan insisted, clarifying that change is not the absence of temptation, but the ability to be holy even when being tempted.
“This is very important as there’s this sense that we want to repair someone’s sexual orientation,” he said.
Change is not the absence of temptation, but the ability to be holy even when being tempted.
For Christians who are struggling with same-sex attractions, we need to remind them of their identity in Christ, said Dr Yuan.
“Because when it comes to sexuality, we have conflated what we do and what we feel with who we are,” he observed, emphasising that sexuality is not who we are, but how we are.
Believing that identity is the fundamental starting point of transformation, Dr Yuan encouraged the audience to help Christians grappling with their sexuality to think through what personhood and identity mean to them.
This was something he had personally experienced, having initially struggled with letting go of same-sex relationships.
Coming to a crossroad, Dr Yuan finally realised he could choose not to allow his sexual attractions to dictate who he was and how he lived. Instead, he decided to follow Jesus.
“I didn’t leave pursuing same-sex relationships because my parents told me it was sinful or convinced me it was bad,” he said.
“I left it because my parents showed me something better. And His name is Jesus.”
THINK + TALK
- What are your views on singleness? Do you struggle to see it as a gift?
- What does your identity in Christ mean to you? How can you share this with others?
- What role can you play in creating a healthy place for singles to thrive within your Christian community?