An ear to listen: a response to Convergence 2018

Author: Caleb Musselman, Campus Ministry Coordinator

Do we have a listening ear? 

 In the wake of Mark Charles rolling in and out of town like a wrecking ball, I’ve encountered two camps of people - those who strongly agree and conversely those who strongly disagree. While it can be tempting to align ourselves wholly with the position of either camp, such a dichotomous mindset may not be the best or most helpful or most Christ-like response. We serve a dynamic Lord. In Mark 10, Jesus instructs his disciples to sell all they have in order to give to the poor. Four chapters later however, he rebukes those same disciples for parroting that teaching as they scolded a woman who used a bottle of oil worth a year’s wages to anoint Jesus’ feet. Jesus is more than our understanding of him. He is more than our “all or nothing” posture that we so often are encouraged to hold. As we continue to process Convergence, Justice Week, and other controversial topics, how can we break our usual camp of strictly in or strictly out and venture into a shared space of curiosity and humility? 

In my 10 number of years living and learning in the Geneva community, I've found that our culture tends to favor certain facets of learning. We enjoy learning more about what we already know, but we fear that which we have not encountered. So, when Mark Charles presents an intense and harsh critique we feel that we must give him our allegiance or banish him from our community for eternity.  

Could it be possible to engage new content and ideas with an open ear to the Spirit’s voice? Are we willing to be taught by voices unfamiliar to us? These are all questions that have flooded through my mind the last week. As I ask for the Spirit’s guidance in my own life and in the midst of these tumultuous times, I hear the Lord asking me to develop a listening ear. Now, it is important to understand that a listening ear is not a naïve ear. It is possible and even Christ-like to ask questions of others to hear and understand perspectives and experiences without being swayed and detached from the truths of God. Such a posture makes room for empathy and love with no assumptions of immediate change. However, when we seek out diverse voices and challenging perspectives we are concurrently making room for God to reveal a misunderstanding of his truth and character and call us to action and change. This is the listening ear we fear. 

So, just two weeks after we welcomed Mark Charles into our space and invited him to disrupt our calm, the question remains – do we have a listening ear?