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Listen in love

In my early years at Oklahoma Christian University, my love for this university grew. I watched the university promote “Complex Dialogues,” diverse spaces, and above all, loving thy neighbor. In the past few months, I have become ashamed to be associated with a place that prevents the simple fellowship of students and fires or pushes out staff and faculty who have done nothing but give to students.

If the recent decisions to deny Safe at Home Chapel a space on campus and fire a tenured professor who brought in a gay speaker are reflections of Oklahoma Christian’s values, I question what our values are. Are we a people guided by God’s love? 

In Romans 14 Paul pleads with the Roman Christians to accept each other because “God has accepted them” (14.3). He asks, “why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (14:10-11). When we pass judgment on each other, we place “stumbling blocks” in the way of fellow Christians. God sees the heart, and he is more than able to judge rightly. 

Our job is not to judge; our job is to live in God’s grace and help others feel that grace as well. 

Growing up in a Christian environment, I was terrified when I realized my attraction to the same sex. I know what the Bible says. But denying those thoughts and feelings for six years led me to depression, insecurity and a shallow faith. My early time at Oklahoma Christian gave me space to question those feelings and re-examine my faith. How I respond (or don’t respond) to those feelings in view of my faith is a different, difficult conversation. But I needed the conversation to happen, and I needed a space that allowed those conversations.

If we suppress the reality of how people feel, we will become dead inside. We will become a shell of judgements and doctrine with no capacity for loving ourselves or others. The world will not see the love and grace of Christ; it will see a self-centered and self-righteous institution.

Let’s talk, and let’s listen. Listening is an act of love. Listening is personal; it builds relationship. It bridges the gap between leaders and communities. Why else would prayer be so powerful, an act entirely dependent on the belief God is listening and actively loving his children? If we want to be followers of Christ, we must allow spaces that ask hard questions, that truly give grace without judgment, even while we hold on to our convictions.

Jesus actively sought out people who had been denied love and acceptance. He met with them, ate with them, and called them to follow Him. He talked with people openly and honestly. He never denied others a chance to ask questions or to simply gather to feel His grace.

In fall 2018, I thought I had come to a Christ-like university, a university that wanted to listen. And I want it back.

Ann Magner is a senior editor of the Talon.

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