On the first day of classes last semester – the second semester of freshman year in college – I walked into a room of students who all looked very different from me. I slowly shuffled my feet as I searched for an open seat next to someone, anyone, who looked similar to me – a person I could be friends with. My voice cracked as I asked one girl if I could sit next to her. I was so nervous. I had never felt so out of place, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.
Then my Professor walked into the room and said, “Alright class, good morning! Welcome to Composition 2 with an emphasis on queer studies.”
…. I’m sorry, what??? I thought to myself, Queer studies?? I thought I enrolled in regular Comp 2!!! The little voice in my head was freaking out!
I had accidentally enrolled in queer theories, and was apparently the only straight person in the room. Yes, that really happened. At first, I laughed at myself because accidentally enrolling in the wrong class is so something I would do. But after really thinking about it, I decided this could be an interesting opportunity, and that I was not going to drop the class.
You see, I grew up in the buckle of the bible belt where everyone is straight and white and “loves Jesus,” so I hadn’t really been exposed to the things I would be learning about in this class. I had never experienced being a minority. I had never really even been in a class where most people didn’t share the same views as me.
I called my parents and we all had a good laugh. But afterwards, we ended up having a really insightful conversation and obviously (being a pastor’s kid), the conversation got turned back to Jesus.
We talked for a long time about how Jesus ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes, the diseased and the broken, widows, and adulterers. He even hung on a cross in between two thieves (even though He had lived a sinless life). He wasn’t afraid to break bread and even love people who were different – outcasts – and neither should we.
As believers, we are called to love our neighbors. And guess what? Everyone is our neighbor, not just the people we like or who are similar to us! This truth convicts me constantly. Choosing to stay in this class was, in many ways, a result of that conviction.
I want to be a mental health counselor someday, so I wanted to know what life is like for people who struggle with same sex desires or bisexual tendencies. I wanted to approach the class from a place of seeking to understand, verses continuing to walk in ignorance. But I also wanted to learn how to profess what I believe, spiritually speaking, in a way that was loving and not casting judgement.
So, I stayed in the queer theories class and I can honestly say that it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I made new friends, and because I was seeking to understand and love on my classmates, they quickly accepted me. They became my friends. I learned more from that class than any yet. This is in part because I was uneducated in its subject, but also because of what I learned about love. I learned what it means to love my neighbor, how to love someone and yet disagree with them. I learned that there is so much hurt in the world around us. If I had just stayed in my bubble, I wouldn’t have the eyes to see these things. I learned that my classmates and I have something in common: we all need Jesus. And, I learned that preaching at someone won’t really show them who Jesus is (that only shows that I know a bunch of facts). Instead, the way I love displays Him better than any of my bible knowledge could to people who don’t know they need Him.
College is scary because there are so many types of people, and sin is everywhere with easy access. But if we want to be like Jesus, we can seek to love like him, by trying to understand where someone with different views is coming from, and pointing them back to the cross in love.
If you are an incoming freshman this year, yes, find friends who are similar to you and find a solid community of believers. But don’t just stay in your little bubble of “good people” who won’t corrupt you. The people outside of your bubble need Jesus just as much as you do. It will be scary, but love isn’t supposed to be comfortable.