Susan Payne left the homosexual lifestyle behind. Valerie Cash embraced it. Depressed about their sexual feelings, both women sought help from Christians. But the Christians Payne encountered gave her hope. Some Christians Cash encountered cruelly taunted her about her feelings. Others encouraged her to live as a lesbian, telling her that love demands viewing any lifestyle as equally valid.

Homosexuality is an issue fraught with controversy. Throughout both the secular and faith communities, those who believe homosexuality is morally wrong often avoid or mistreat people living homosexual lifestyles. Those who believe people can be born homosexual or that the lifestyle is a valid choice are speaking with increasingly louder political voices to gain acceptance for homosexuality in society.

How should Christians respond? We shouldn’t be afraid to reach across the gap of fear, mistrust and shame that separates us from people living as gays and lesbians, said people who have left the homosexual lifestyle. But when we do so, they said, we should be courageous in speaking the truth and pointing homosexual people to the Source of truth – Jesus – who can bring the healing and transformation they need.

Biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-27 and Leviticus 20:13 explicitly mention homosexuality as both harmful and sinful. The Bible is clear about God’s view of homosexuality – it’s not the way He intended humans to relate to one another.

Love outside the boundaries God has set is not truly love at all, said Bob Ragan, who struggled with homosexuality for 11 years before leaving the lifestyle and now directs Regeneration, a ministry with offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia that helps people heal from homosexuality. “God loves us, so He wants us to grow, to become all He intended us to be so we can have the best.”

When Ragan was engaged in homosexual relationships, he said, “My sexuality became my identity. It was like I had homosexuality on as glasses and everything was filtered through that. Feelings became my truth.”

But eventually, said Ragan, he realized that, “My relationship with God is the foundation of my identity. I’m a person made in the image of God. I was struggling with brokenness in my life, just like we all do in some way, but I didn’t need to build my identity on that. It was possible for me to change, because God can redeem our brokenness, whatever it is.”

Hurting People

God’s heart breaks for hurting people caught in the suffocating grip of homosexuality, Ragan said. Homosexuality can have many causes – from emotional neglect or abuse during a person’s formative years to a genetic makeup that makes a person susceptible to it, just as certain people are susceptible to alcoholism, he said. “Studies have proven again and again that there is no such thing as a ‘gay gene,’ but that there may be certain temperaments of people that may make them more susceptible to same sex attractions, some genetic influences that leave people more vulnerable, like with many diseases in our fallen world. That, combined with environmental influences, can cause conditions like homosexuality or alcoholism.”

Payne said feeling rejected by her father growing up triggered her same sex attractions later. “I remember deciding that I didn’t want to spend time around men because I was upset with my dad.”

Ray Enriquez (his name has been changed at his request), who participated in clandestine homosexual affairs while married with children and regularly attending church, said a lack of affirmation from his father and a disturbing adolescent experience led to his urge to develop homosexual relationships. “I had a detached, uninvolved father,” he said. “He wasn’t physically abusive or anything like that, but I just didn’t get what I needed from him emotionally. Plus, in early adolescence, I was sexually seduced by an older teen. I wanted that attention from another guy, but more in a friendship way. I was confused, though, because he wanted it in a sexual way, and when I was with him, it felt good; it was exciting.”