For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:7 (New King James Version)
This scripture is part of the second pastoral letter Paul writes to his colleague Timothy. Paul speaks to Timothy of his willingness to endure the ups and ‘downs’ of witnessing for Christ. He encourages Timothy to be unashamed and fearless in proclaiming the Gospel, the same Gospel through which Jesus Christ brings life and immortality to those who believe Him (2 Tim. 1:8-10, John 3:16). In this letter, Paul also speaks of the patience, endurance, and meekness needed in ministry (2 Tim. 2: 21-26). It is my belief that one of the most pervasive and possessive spirits in the Black community of men who love men, women who love women, bisexuals, and transgender persons is the spirit of fear. Many of our efforts to affirm ourselves in the fullness of our physical, mental, and spiritual being have been stifled by fear. It might be fear of the past, fear of others dealing negatively with the truth, a fear of failing to simply be, or a fear of changing and/or being changed.
The Holy Bible provides us with several stories in which the overcoming of fear can be viewed as vital to the achievement of victory. Would David have succeeded in killing Goliath if he were afraid? Would Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego have survived the fiery furnace if they were afraid that God wouldn’t deliver them? Would Stephen have been able to speak to the hypocrisy of his accusers if he was afraid of their criticism? As one strives to grow in the love and knowledge of the Holy Spirit, one should examine how fear influences the faith of God in one’s life. Let’s examine two kinds of fear many same gender loving people might find themselves confronting.
The first fear considered is the fear of embracing one’s sexual identity in a spiritual fashion. In One More River to Cross: Being Black and Gay in America, Keith Boykin writes,
Homophobia, not homosexuality, leads some lesbians and gays to engage in risky and self-destructive behaviors. Homophobia, not homosexuality, leads many of them away from their families, their communities, and their places of worship. And when closeted black lesbians and gays continue to deceive themselves with unsuccessful marriages and families, it is homophobia, not homosexuality that threatens the survival of the African-American family.
As long as there is a fear of self-acceptance and lack to embrace one’s sexual identity in a spiritual fashion, then homophobia will continue to be the Enemy’s stronghold over the Black same gender loving community. How long will some black homosexuals continue to live their lives according to other’s norms in order to be accepted? Now this is not to say that all societal norms for good behavior should be overturned, but it is to say that we as black non-heterosexuals were made by God and not by Man (Psalms 100:3). Notice how fear of embracing identity manifests itself in our community:
1. Fear of rejection due to sexual identity leads many persons to adopt a “down-low” attitude. It causes many of us to not wish to identify with any adjectives (i.e. gay, homosexual, same gender loving) or definitions (i.e. one who is attracted to another of the same gender) that describes our non-heterosexual attraction.
2. Fear of belief in same-gender, long-term relationships has caused many persons to accept promiscuity and anonymous sex (public, private, or semi-private) as a norm in the non-heterosexual community. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, Chile, you know all the men in D.C. (substitute your own hometown here if you wish) just want sex! Most of them don’t want to have a romantic relationship and none of them are really ready anyhow!” or “I wouldn’t trust these faggots/dykes as far as I could throw them!”
3. A fear of rejection leads many of us to leave and/or harshly criticize the Church or remain silent in the church on the issue of sexuality and divinity. In order to overcome this fear, God wants you to begin to draw closer to Him. His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9) and His love for you is always abounding. Just as David, Daniel, Moses, and many other characters in the Bible did not allow fear of identity to halt their budding relationship with God, you must not allow fear of rejection and/or embracing your total being spiritually to prohibit you spiritual growth. Remember that God created sexuality (Isaiah 45:7) and He will direct you in all aspects of your life if you let Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The second type of fear being considered is the fear of an imperfect past. Many people are uncomfortable with the bad sides or sins of their past. Such discomfort could lead one to hide one’s past. One becomes afraid that the knowledge of such acts could be used as weapons to demean one’s character or blacken one’s reputation. Remember to make your faults and/or burdens, weaknesses, and shortcomings stepping stones of strength and not abodes for unhealthy shame. We all have some burden or struggle (Galatians 6:5) and such a struggle does not have to be viewed in a solely negative manner. For example, Habakkuk referred to bearing God’s word as a burden (Habakkuk 1:1). As a second example, suppose you’re one who really appreciates the beauty of men of African descent. Without self-control, such an appreciation can lead to temptation when working out and/or showering at the gym. Nevertheless, one can strive to overcome this by remembering that Jesus is one’s refuge (Matthew 16:24), the focus in the gym is to work out, and that one’s physical fitness can be a holy thing. In turn, you overcome the fear of people knowing one’s burdens by living a life that expresses faith and love of God simultaneously and above one’s burdens.
Finally, when someone tries to use your past against you, remember that God insures you not to worry about such actions. Psalms 37:1-6 say, ” Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.” Decommission the stewards of your past. That is, those persons who will see you only in terms of who you were and not who you are currently. Stewards of your past become very shortsighted. After all, whomever the Son sets free shall be free indeed (John 8:36) and God’s freedom includes freedom from a shameful past and freedom from people who guard your past and use it against you.
In conclusion, we can achieve spiritual victory over fear by recognizing the body as a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This means that your body is house of worship of the Lord and worship of Him must come from you the temple. Let your life as exhibited in your thoughts, words, and deeds be a praise unto God (James 1:22). The Lord wishes for us to be “clean” temples in His eyes. For some persons cleanliness will mean denial of certain behaviors or thoughts (Proverbs 23:7). For others, cleanliness will mean walking righteously before all men (Ephesians 5:2, 8). We can all achieve victory over fear by remembering that fear is not a gift of the Holy Spirit. Combining these notions yields a great victory over fear. After all, knowing who you are in Christ is an affirmation and revelation of your identity and your divine purpose.
Although only two kinds of fear were considered in this essay, there may be other kinds of fear in your life that you wish to conquer. Do you have a fear of trusting others? A fear to open up to others about yourself? A fear of going broke financially or spiritually? You’re encouraged to apply the Scripture references in this essay to any fear of your life. This is the beauty of God and His word expressed in a simple yet majestic fashion. He comes to help you in anything that you’re going through or dealing with, and He wants you to receive all that He has in store for your life if you recognize His worthiness to be praised and worshipped with your life. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Florida native Shurron Mitchell Farmer is a mathematics professor in Washington, D.C. He earned his bachelors in mathematics from Florida A&M University and M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from Howard University.