Cash attributes her many years of emotional insecurity to a difficult upbringing, but doesn’t see a connection between that and her homosexual feelings. After a traumatic divorce that hurt her emotionally, however, she and her teenage son moved to a new town and Cash traded heterosexuality for homosexuality.

Showing Love

Sometimes, Christians focus on the sin of homosexual behavior without expressing love to those who are struggling with it.

The last thing hurting people need to hear is a put-down, Enriquez said. “Derogatory terms like faggot or queer just drive people further into their homosexual behavior,” he said, “because they take on those labels as their identities. Just looking at people in the light of compassion, as Jesus does, rather than criticism or name-calling, will help a lot.”

Payne said people of the same sex shouldn’t be afraid to establish friendships with someone struggling with homosexuality. “Just offering a struggler a healthy same sex friendship and speaking the truth in love will help tremendously,” she said.

Within Cash’s ardent defense of her choice to live as a lesbian is the voice of a hurting person stung by the taunting she’s sometimes encountered. “I’m making my choice, and I know that God loves me no matter what anyone else says. I choose to be happy, to live in the way that’s right for me. No one on this earth is able to judge how I choose to give and receive love. When God judges me, I know I’ll have to be accountable to Him, but I also know I’ll have memories of love to take with me.”

Rev. Jerrold Foltz, pastor of Cash’s church (Wellspring United Church of Christ in Centreville, Virginia), said his congregation is “greatly concerned about verbal abuse and violence against gays and lesbians in our society.”

Foltz believes the answer lies in “affirming” people who choose the homosexual lifestyle. “How people behave is not something we try to dictate,” said Foltz, who is heterosexual himself. “That’s something people follow their own consciences on. We just try to welcome people as children of God.”

Foltz acknowledged that certain biblical passages on homosexuality can be troubling, but said members of his congregation can choose what passage they would prefer to focus on rather than following the Bible as a whole. “We rely on the Bible for guidance in many aspects of our daily lives, and I don’t mind challenging people to think about and respond to passages from the Bible if they want to. But it’s in the American spirit of freedom that we try to encourage people to follow whatever spiritual path they choose, however they choose. Whenever we come up against a troublesome Bible passage, we think about what Jesus might say about it. Jesus said a lot about loving people, so we always go with a focus on that – the bigger picture.”

Presenting the Truth

But showing compassion doesn’t mean diluting the truth, said Enriquez. In fact, he said, the most loving thing a Christian can do for someone who is struggling is to present the truth to him or her.

Enriquez was grateful that his family and friends confronted him with the truth after his secret homosexual behavior was discovered. “I was caught in compulsive, addictive behavior, and I had become a world-class, expert liar in my marriage. But finally, what I was doing got exposed, and even though I was humiliated and degraded, I realized that I could turn to God for healing. I found out that the hope is real, and the healing is real. You don’t have to be gay. God will definitely work with you if you decide you want to change.”

After 10 years of frequently gay bars, Payne decided on a whim to attend a lunchtime Bible study at the Department of Defense (where she was then working), simply because she was curious. She didn’t intend to attend more than once, she said, but was encouraged by what she found there. “That was the first time I’d ever encountered people with hope. It made me want to stay and learn more.”

Eventually, Payne said, she experienced the transformation Jesus offers to all who seek Him. “I began to realize that, in the [homosexual] lifestyle, I was settling for less – that God really has made men for women and women for men because that’s how He’s designed the abundant life He wants for us,” said Payne, who is now happily married and a mother, as well.  “God did give us commandments and boundaries so that we wouldn’t get hurt or hurt others. God has really helped me face my issues rather than just numbing myself to them like before. My sexual desire toward the same sex is gone. Now when I want to be with women, it’s to be with them socially, in a healthy way. What rich and abundant life God has for us if we just take Him at His word.”