Everyone knows that college life is full of temptation.  College students have more freedom than ever before to do whatever they want to do.  There is temptation around every corner, the biggest of which is particularly damaging.  It can ruin a student’s ability to have authentic relationships with people for the rest of their lives.

Surprisingly, the biggest “sin” you can commit in college is not defined by religious people or by Christians, but by academia.  The biggest “sin” you can commit in college is to tell someone that your belief is right and their belief is wrong. 

This is considered the most unacceptable thing you can do on a college campus, especially on a campus where truth should be explored. 

I’m afraid that the fear of committing this big “sin” is creating a generation of people unable to thoughtfully discuss meaningful topics, unable to have friendships with people different than them, and unwilling to ask questions and seek truth.

A Conversation with Karen

Karen (not her real name) has faithfully been attending our house church gathering.  She has not yet decided to follow Jesus, but she seems very close to doing so.  After our gathering last week we spoke for some time about Christianity and other religions.  Her primary reason for not wanting to believe in Jesus is that she would then have to believe that her friends and family who do not believe in Jesus would then be wrong.

She said, “How can you tell me I am wrong if I believe every way leads to God?”

I said, “How can you tell me I am wrong because I don’t believe every way leads to God?” 

She had never thought of it that way.  Her statement was as much of a truth statement telling me that I was wrong as my statement was telling her that she was wrong.  Strangely, those who believe that it is a sin to make a truth statement have made one themselves.  They, too, have committed the biggest sin.

The False Dichotomy

Karen has the sweetest heart.  She was struggling to believe because she sincerely loves her friends and family who hold to many different religious beliefs.  She falsely thought that if she began to follow Jesus, believing that He is the only way to God, that she would thus become unloving toward her friends and family that believe differently.  That is a false dichotomy.

This is the lie beneath this biggest sin.  It goes something like this: “It’s unloving to say someone is wrong.”   The implication: “You cannot be in a loving relationship with someone whom you disagree.”  This is simply not true, and we all know it.  If you don’t then you have a pretty narrow group of friends!

If we continue to believe the lie beneath the biggest college sin, we will never make friends with people different from us.  It will make us the type of people who are unable to thoughtfully talk about anything meaningful like religion, politics, racism, sex, etc.

Ask Questions and Seek Truth

College can and should be a time of life to ask questions and seek truth.   The biggest sin, however, keeps students from doing so. 

Why not engage in loving, respectful, thoughtful conversations with people who believe differently than you?  Talk about your different beliefs.  Determine what you believe, even though it then means you believe others are wrong.  If you end up believing every religious view is right, then remember, you have made a truth statement and called me wrong.

Christian students are certainly challenged to question their faith when they sit in classes taught by professors with a different worldview.  It’s good for them.  College is a great time to question what we believe, especially if we do so in relationship with friends who believe differently than us.

I admire Karen’s willingness to do so.

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justin_new Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.