This semester has started to be especially hard with one class in particular because the professor is having us read, and is lecturing on, somewhat sexually explicit material. He didn’t warn the class in his syllabus (otherwise, I would have tried to take another class), and I just don’t know what to do about the situation.
I don’t want to postpone graduation by withdrawing from the class, and it would be really awkward to try to talk to my professor about it. I simply don’t know what to do, and I’m tired of compromising my mind and morals.
Thank you for writing.
I understand your desire to graduate on time, and while it’s a good goal, it isn’t ultimate. Even more important than staying on track is obeying God and listening to your conscience. If you were trying to avoid the hard work of writing papers about tedious books or boring books or even books that were outside your concentration, I would point you to Scriptures that urge believers to submit to governing authorities, to do everything as unto the Lord, and to work diligently as a quiet example of godliness to unbelievers. But this is not the case. I believe it’s clear what you must do.
Scripture says Christians are to run away from the deeds of darkness (2 Timothy 2:22-24, 1 Corinthians 6:18). Ephesians 5:11-12 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (emphasis added).
What are those “unfruitful works of darkness”?
…sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:3-5).
To persist in this class as is as a believer, to listen to coarse talk and sexual immorality and impurity, to read the books and write papers about them is to jeopardize your witness as a Christian, but even more, possibly your eternity with Christ.
Does this mean you have to drop the class? Not necessarily. Start by talking to your professor. Explain that you chose this class based on the syllabus and weren’t expecting sexually explicit material. Ask if the explicit lectures are part of the plan going forward. If so, be prepared to drop the class. If not, ask if he will allow you to read alternate texts and do alternate assignments that still meet the requirements for completion.
It would also be helpful to talk with your academic advisor about your predicament. Let him (or her) know about the situation and your moral objections. Depending on what’s being covered in the class and the readings, as well as what’s being required of you, it may rise to the level of sexual harassment. This would give your advisor an even greater incentive to help you. At a minimum, it’s worth asking if there’s a way to still graduate on time by transferring to another class (even if it means doing more work to catch up to the class.) A clean conscience would be worth a few extra assignments. The point is not to stir up trouble, but to obey God.
This is risky and will take courage, but it is a risk worth taking. Christians throughout history have suffered many pains and hardships far worse than delayed graduation and scorn from a professor. They are those who suffered even to death. They were “tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38). They are the cloud of witnesses cheering you on to faithfulness, to “run with endurance the race set before you” (Hebrews 12:1).
If the class continues to be sexually explicit and you stay, it will be willful sin and a defiling of your conscience and an offense to the risen Christ living in you. To stay will be to grieve the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase James, “My sister, this thing ought not to be so!”
You must escape; you must flee sin the way Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife “spoke to him day after day,” saying, “Lie with me.” He risked everything because he feared the Lord, not man. And it cost him dearly. But He treasured Christ above every earthly privilege and position.
Let Paul exhort you further,
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! (Ephesians 4:17-20).
Every Christian is called to follow Peter’s example of faithfulness to Christ in the face of opposition. Acts 5 recounts how Peter and the apostles were brought before the High Priest and Sadducees for teaching the people about Jesus and healing people in His name. The High Priest ordered them to stop. It says they “were enraged and wanted to kill them.” What was Peter’s and the apostles’ answer in this life and death situation? “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29b).
What happened when Peter and the others obeyed God rather than man? Many believed in Jesus and were saved. It’s possible God will use your obedience to lead others to faith in Christ. But even if no one believes, He is calling you to be faithful.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).
I pray you will be filled with the Holy Spirit, to have the strength to obey Jesus when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.