I had a lengthy discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan about his experience as a same-sex attracted Christian and his new book, “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story.” Make sure to read parts one and two first, as this picks up right where we left off! Here in part three, Dr. Yuan expounds on a biblical view of marriage. To hear the whole interview when it goes live, subscribe to my podcast here!
Ethan: That reminds me of Rob Bell’s old book “Sex God” because one thing he says is that some of the most sexual people he knows are single. His understanding of sexuality is not simply what a husband and wife do on their wedding night, but that in essence, sexuality is giving yourself to other people. He said something about how single people can give themselves to their friends and their family and their church. They’re giving themselves — not in an intercourse sort of way — but in a relational way. You don’t want to stray too far from the linguistic roots of the word, but he was making the point that to be connected to other people, you don’t have to be married.
Dr. Yuan: I would say that we have confined or limited love to sexuality — and I guess I’m defining sexuality more narrowly, to just sexual or romantic desires — but as I said in my book, marriage does not have a monopoly on love. So then what you’re saying is totally right. There’s a reality that we all have a need to love and be loved, and to be intimate with others, but this doesn’t have to necessarily be romantic or sexual. I think that’s important for singles to wrap their head around, that we can give ourselves to others in friendship, and most importantly in the context of the local church.
Exactly. Again, I wonder how much of that is a response to the larger culture Christians live in. Sadly, we’ve seen the Church go along with that idea of marriage being the source of satisfaction. I don’t know if you ever heard this, but we used to call our school [Moody Bible Institute] ‘Moody Bridal Institute,’ because you go there and get hitched. One of my roommates was fresh out of high school and between his freshmen and sophomore years at Moody, he got married. And a couple [of] months later, they were pregnant. He was 19, about to be a dad, and now I’m a 27-year-old virgin so… [Laughs].
We joke about it, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s a reflection of us seeing this thing — sex — painted as the climax of nearly every film, right? The happy ending is when they settle down together, or when they make up and their relationship is restored. Even the thesis of the movie “The Notebook”, in the opening monologue, he says as an old man, “I have done the highest thing a human being can do: I have loved another with my whole heart, for my whole life.” If you think about it, that’s sort of the manifesto of our culture. Christians, without proper thought and education, will hear something like that — and it’s appealing, attractive and tangible — so we’re going to latch onto that and say, ‘well I want that!’ Therefore, for Christians, since we try not to sleep around, our shortcut to happiness is to get married when we’re 20 and pursue happiness that way.
Yes, and to chase that ‘deepest form of love.’ In 2015, when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a lot of people were writing different kinds of responses. I saw two types: One that was celebrating marriage equality, and the other that was grieving this decision and defending the sanctity of traditional marriage. I felt like something was really missing, so with my friend Rosaria Butterfield, I wrote a piece that was published in The Gospel Coalition. We called it “Something Greater than Marriage.”
There was a mistake people kept making. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, wrote, “Marriage is the highest ideal of love.” And that’s exactly what the world thinks! That this is the pinnacle of love, and this is the highest we can achieve. But I want to argue and say that yes, marriage is an expression, or a form, of love, but it is not the only one, nor should we ever consider it to be the greatest. Honestly, as Christians, the greatest form of love is God’s love for us. And hopefully, our love for God should supersede our love for our wife or husband. And [the] same thing for our spouse — if I ever get married, I want to marry a woman who does not love me more than she loves God. That’s essential. If that’s not there, I probably won’t get married!