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What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 32-34

When I was in seminary, one of my professors was a member of the Lakota nation who had been ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The professor, Dr. George Tinker, was a valuable resource to those of us from middle-class, European American roots because he helped us see things in surprising new ways. This was particularly true in how he helped us read Scripture in new ways.

Take a passage like today's from the book of Numbers. Most of us in seminary had grown up considering just one side of the story as portrayed in the passage. We saw the distribution of land, for instance, as an exciting time to be celebrated. "After all," we thought, "the Israelites had been traveling for years in the desert (and had already been geographically displaced in Egypt for hundreds of years before that!)" - so we simply assumed now it was their time to get their due.

"Now wait a minute," Dr. Tinker would say, "I can understand one group of people celebrating the new land they were about to receive. But what about those indigenous people who were already living on the land? Don't forget that what was perceived of as one people's gain was also a HUGE loss for another group of people."

Dr. Tinker went on to note that one of the challenges Christian communities have in reaching out to many Native America peoples is that many of the Native Americans relate more to the experience of the displaced people rather than they do to the victorious group that moved in.

Ever since he challenged us with that awareness, I have been much more cognizant of remembering there is always more than just one perspective on any topic that comes before us: the challenge for us it to take the time (and have the humility) to remember that.

Perhaps there is a situation in your own life where you have been "reading" the events in one particular way and feeling justified in resting in one particular conclusion. While such a sense of certainty can be comforting to an individual from her or his particular point of reference, perhaps that perspective is leaving another aspect of the human experience out. As you seek to broaden the conclusions in which you rest, take comfort knowing that we are not alone as we broaden our perspectives; such efforts ultimately bring us closer to the One who can see it all.

Til next time …

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