Christopher Yuan found God in a prison trashcan, a fitting setting for someone who thought he'd thrown his life away. Yuan dug the Gideons New Testament out from under layers of filth and started reading. The words eventually convicted Yuan to repent from years of drug abuse and homosexuality and taught him to place his identity in Christ.
Last week, Yuan visited Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pa., to share his testimony and encourage students to reach out to others suffering similar struggles.
"Change is not the absence of struggles, it's the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of those struggles," he said.
Yuan grew up with traditional Chinese values and no exposure to the Christian lifestyle. He described living with a secret all through high school. But years later, while studying to be a dentist, he decided to stop fighting his secret and "came out of the closet." When Yuan told his parents he was gay, they gave him the ultimatum: family or his homosexual lifestyle. The choice was relatively easy.
"I believed homosexuality was at the core of who I was," Yuan said.
Embracing homosexuality as his identity, Yuan packed up and moved to Kentucky where he actively embraced the lifestyle and also began doing drugs.
Spiraling into a life of momentary living, Yuan started selling drugs and quickly got expelled from dental school. During this time, his parents became Christians and softened their approach to their son. But their attempts to show love only offended him. The bright lights of Atlanta beckoned next. But Yuan soon got arrested and taken to jail. He faced a minimal sentence of ten years for possessing 9.1 tons of marijuana.
While in prison, Yuan was diagnosed HIV positive and believed he had come to the end of his rope. A few days later, he spotted the Bible in the trash. After serving just three years of his sentence, Yuan got an early release.
He now teaches at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, while pursuing his doctorate of ministry at Bethel Seminary. In addition to being a professor, Yuan coauthored with his mother a book about his experience, Out of a Far Country, and travels the world to speak on the issue of homosexuality.
Yuan's honesty in sharing his struggles surprised several Geneva students.
"I was shocked that he was so open with his dark past," said junior LeeAnne Fisher. "People normally just hide those skeletons in the closet and try to lock it away from everyone. But he had pictures of that time where he is wearing barely anything. I realized this guy is serious business."
Yuan uses his experience to give Christians honest and compelling advice about reaching out to those struggling with issues of homosexuality. Most Christians' biggest mistake is to view homosexuality as the worst sin, Yuan said. The truth is that all sins are just as odious in Christ's eyes. When Christians hold homosexuality on a sinful level higher than their own, homosexuals feel as though God hates them.
"If we don't weep over our own sin, we aren't being convicted of our own brokenness," he said.
Yuan also urged Christians toward consistency in their understanding of change. So often, believers accept the urges still present with sins such as alcoholism or lying but refuse to believe that a homosexual who still has urges has truly changed.
Rather than putting so much emphasis on homosexuality and heterosexuality, Christians should focus on "holy sexuality," Yuan said. Holy sexuality includes faithfulness to one's spouse in marriage and in singleness, abstinence. This idea is not to act as a justification for homosexuals, but rather as a focus for Christians to humble themselves and pursue faithfulness to God. Holy sexuality doesn't justify the flings of either sexual lifestyle, Yuan said.
Yuan's explanation of holy sexuality resonated with sophomore Nate Miller.: "It is not a matter of homosexual or heterosexual, but rather a devotion to purity and holiness from a biblical perspective."