Fitting in with the crowd

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a Large Group Bible study at Duke University's Asian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Forty to fifty students showed up to dig in and look at what Jesus had to say about God's personal love for us.

The students had such fantastic insights into the passage. I could write a dozen posts springboarding off of their comments. We had fun together as we engaged with God's word. But today I wanted to pass along just one insight.

We were studying Luke 15:1-7. This section of the Gospel of Luke contains a series of parables by Jesus, culminating with the more-than-famous Parable of the Prodigal Son. But at Duke we focused on another parable ... The Parable of the Lost Sheep.

Here's my 30-second recap of the parable. A shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one. He leaves the 99 behind to go looking for the lost sheep. When he finds the lost sheep, he's thrilled. This has implications for how we live, love and lead. [For a challenging reflection on this parable, check out this post from my friend Joseph: The 99 and the Lost Shepherd]

In the middle of the study at Duke we were discussing what the experience of being in this parable would be like from the perspective of one of the 99 sheep who stayed behind. I'll be honest, I expected students to talk about feelings of frustration or fear or jealousy. But that wasn't where they went.

One of the students shared that he'd feel safe. Being part of the 99 would feel safe to him. As long as he was in the center of the flock - doing what he was supposed to be doing - he'd be fine. He comes from a culture that believes "The tallest blade of grass is the first to get cut." All his life he's been shown how to fit in. And this makes him (and students like him) incredibly warm, welcoming, and generous under the right conditions. And this creates challenges to mission and spiritual formation under other conditions.

How much of my reading of this parable is shaped by my ethnic heritage as a white, Latino man?

It has never once occurred to me that the 99 sheep would feel safe. My heritage encourages me to be bold and take risks. I come from a long line of exiles and immigrants ... from Cuba, from Spain, and from South Carolina (don't let anyone tell you that moving from SC to FL in the 40s didn't take a tremendous amount of courage). My people are much more likely to be the one sheep wandering away than the 99 sheep waiting obediently back home. The stories I heard growing up and the cultural values I heard extolled shaped the way I read Scripture.

Can you identify ways that your ethnic heritage shapes the way you read Scripture?

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