From the Pastor’s Desk, February 2018

The following article was taken from the Canton Chronicle Vol. 2018 #2 issue written by Pastor Kevin Kessler and edited by Martha Harr

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 NRSV)

Pick any topic, according to Dr. Steve Ambrose, and there will always be another strong opinion. Ambrose names a few of these topics in an article he wrote and published on LinkedIn: guns, kneeling for the national anthem, pronouns, President Trump, Hillary Clinton, Fox, CNN, company leadership decisions, selling tactics, best investments, what TV shows to watch, the best way to cook steak. Other subjects to add to this list could be: the Bible, sexuality, creation care, theology.

Ambrose contends, and I agree, that strong opinions are not wrong. However, the ability to navigate these differences with civility is a problem agreed upon by 95% of Americans (a statistic Ambrose conveys). Ambrose and his wife, Nellie, have created a movement to bring back civil discourse called Walk the Ridge. The movement logo, pictured here, captured my attention, especially the explanation of it.

Embedded in the logo is a peace sign, promoting civil discourse in daily personal and online interaction with others. Under the peace sign is the ridge of a mountain, the place we come to when we choose to rise above that which keeps us separate. The Ambrose’s contend that when people of differing opinions walk the ridge together, they can see the valley from which the other came and understand more deeply their perspective, and, in fact, can see the beauty on both sides. Two faces, each a different shade of purple, appear in the logo representing the conversation between two people of diverse ideological views. The logo is purple, a combination of red and blue, colors that often divide us. This color represents healthier communication and respectful disagreement among those with different views. And, the phrases, the core values of Walk the Ridge, are visible in the logo: I See You, I Hear You, I Respect You.

Image result for walk the ridge logo

I appreciated the explanation of the core values on their website. I See You: SEEING people means seeing them as humans first. We all laugh, we all cry, we all have joys, we all have sorrows. It’s about seeing people for who they really are, not the box we put them in when their opinions or beliefs are different than ours. I Hear You: HEARING is the ability to become a more active listener. Having the desire to recognize why people think the way they think—and how their values have shaped them. It’s about listening to understand, instead of listening to respond. I Respect You: RESPECT means acknowledging an individual’s values and opinions—without being forced or compelled to change your own. To restrain from name calling, shaming, judging, and belittling. To honor the right of others to express their opinions, while maintaining your right to respectfully disagree with civility.

The Ambrose’s, from what I can tell, refrain from connecting their understandings to any faith related values. Thus, I would not be surprised by concerns raised that their intentions are seen as anything other than moving us to just get along with one another and all will be well. I would offer alternative thoughts. To climb the mountain, to leave our own comfortable valleys to see the other side is not easy work. Real commitment is necessary and it requires strength beyond our own to reach the ridge, to leave behind for a moment our sacred valley, and to respectfully view the valley on the other side of
the ridge. In a number of ways, the Ambrose’s thoughts connect well to Ephesians 4. By not grieving the Holy Spirit, which will happen when we intentionally listen and honor the other with respect, that same Holy Spirit will give us the power we need to reach the ridge and find some beauty in the other valley.

None of this requires us to change our minds. But is does require of us that we speak with care, that we practice kindness, that we dignify the other with the respect we show to them. And in all this hard work—walking the ridge, if you will—we’ll see the work of God in Christ in our lives and our living.

Are we ready to walk the ridge…together?

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