Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God

June 24, 2015

I had a secret that I kept hidden through high school, college and even the Marine Corp Reserves. Then, when I entered graduate school, I no longer kept it a secret.

I came out of the closet.

I broke the news to my parents and told them, “I am gay.” The news devastated my mother, who was not a Christian at the time. She was confused and angry, but God used it to draw her to himself. Through a little pamphlet on homosexuality that shared the plan of salvation, she came to realize that if God can love her in spite of her sin, then she could love me, her son. Within a few months, my father became a Christian, as well.

Meanwhile, I spent most of my free time in the gay clubs and began experimenting with drugs. Eventually, I supported my habit by selling drugs. I thought I could be a student by day and a drug dealer by night, but three months before I was to receive my doctorate, the administration expelled me. So I moved to Atlanta, Ga., and became a supplier to other dealers in over a dozen states. In addition, it was nothing for me to have multiple anonymous sexual encounters each day. My parents didn’t know the details of my life, but they knew my greatest need was to make Jesus Christ my Lord. Along with more than a hundred prayer warriors, my mother began to pray, “God do whatever it takes to bring this prodigal son to you.” In her desperation, my mom fasted every Monday for seven years and once fasted 39 days on my behalf.

An answered prayer

God answered her prayer the day I opened up my door to twelve federal drug enforcement agents, the Atlanta police and two big German shepherd dogs. I had just received a large shipment of drugs and was charged with the street value equivalent to 9.1 tons of marijuana. With that amount, I was facing ten years to life in federal prison. I had started with a bright future among society’s finest in academia, and I found myself in the ditch among society’s despised in Atlanta City Detention Center. I called home from jail, and my mother’s first words were, “Son, are you okay?” No condemnation, just unconditional love and grace. Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness leads us to repentance.” Even on that miserable day, God was pouring out his irresistible grace and drawing me to himself through the words of my mother. My mom was actually excited to get that call because I hadn’t called home in years, and she knew without a doubt that this was God’s answer to her prayers.

Three days later, I found a Gideon’s New Testament on top of a heap of trash, which is what I felt like, and read through the Gospel of Mark. I started reading the Bible because I had an enormous amount of time on my hands. But a Bible is not just ink on paper. It is the very breath of God, sharper than any double-edged sword, and it exposed my sin.

A couple of weeks later I was called into the nurse’s office. They handcuffed me, chained my hands around my waist and shackled my feet together. I shuffled in and knew something wasn’t right. She was uncomfortably struggling with the words to say and finally scribbled on a piece of paper: HIV+. The days after this diagnosis were dark and lonely. I was sentenced to six years, certainly much better than ten years to life, but the news of my HIV status felt like a death sentence.

Lying in my bed one night, I noticed among the profanity on the metal bunk above me, “If you’re bored, read Jeremiah 29:11.”

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

At the most hopeless point in my life, God told me that regardless of who I was and what I had done in the past, he still had a plan for me.

A gradual transformation

My transformation was gradual. God was convicting me, but I didn’t want to let go of my sexual identity. I went through every verse and chapter of the Bible looking for the blessing of a monogamous gay relationship. I couldn’t find anything. I also realized that unconditional love is not the same thing as unconditional approval of my behavior. My identity is not gay, ex-gay, or even heterosexual for that matter, but my sole identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone. A decision had to be made: either abandon God and pursue a gay relationship; or abandon pursuing a gay relationship—liberating myself from my same-sex desires—and live as a follower of Jesus Christ. My decision was obvious. I chose God.

I used to think that to please this Christian God, I had to become straight—I had to become heterosexual—but even those with heterosexual feelings still struggle with sin; that should not be the goal. Our goal, as Christians, no matter what feelings we have, must be holiness. As I began to live this life of surrender and obedience, God called me to full-time ministry while I was in prison of all places. God did another miracle too—he shortened my sentence from six years to three years, which is almost unheard of in the federal system.

I was released from prison in July 2001, and I started school at Moody Bible Institute the very next month. I graduated from Moody in 2005 and went on to get my Master of Arts in biblical exegesis from Wheaton College Graduate School and recently received my Doctorate of Ministry from Bethel Seminary. I also had the immense honor of co-authoring a book with my mother called Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, and I am now back at Moody teaching in the Bible department. I went from prisoner to professor, how about that for a resume?

Christian parents of LGBT or same-sex attracted children often feel alone and sometimes racked with guilt. But, it’s not their fault. Perfect parenting does not guarantee perfect children. The job of Christian parents is not to produce godly children but to be godly parents, love their children, and point them to a life of costly discipleship. Without my parents living out the gospel in relationship with me, I would not be here. Church, let us come alongside our parents and our children—no matter what sin they’re struggling with—and point them to the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.   

This article was featured in our inaugural issue of Light Magazine. Visit the ERLC store to download Light for free and discover more resources.

Christopher Yuan

Dr. Christopher Yuan has taught the Bible at Moody Bible Institute for over eight years and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks in conferences (such as The Gospel Coalition, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, InterVarsity’s Urbana and the Moody Pastors’ Conferences and Men’s … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24