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“All the theology I know, I learned in a test tube,” said a friend of mine.


That was quite a statement because he knew a lot of theology.  He had been the key non-clergy leader of his church.  He was recognized as one of the best Christian examples around.


What did he mean?


He meant that when it came to God, he learned what he did about God surrounded only by those, who like him, already believed.  He meant that when it came to God he was basically disengaged from anyone who didn’t believe what he believed.  His church experience essentially isolated him from those who were not religious.


The fact of his isolation would have never occurred to him until he became involved in a church that deliberately attempted to love and include non-religious people – the people that Jesus loved and included, according to Mark 2:13-17.


One of the most confusing, but refreshing things about Jesus was that he went out of his way to love people that God hated, or was at least supposed to hate.  To ask a tax collector to follow him made no sense, because to be a tax collector one had to reject God, God’s people and everything that had to do with God.  But, those were the people that Jesus came to love.


My friend was discovering that he was learning some incredible things about God because the wrong people had become the right people in his life.  And, he was exhilarated.


If I ever write a book, I think that it will be about what I have learned from people who didn’t believe.  Some of them came to believe and experience God’s love and presence in t heir lives.  Others did not.


But, because they were willing to accept me as a friend, I learned some of the best things about God.  I wonder if it was because they were so honest and open, not trapped in a spiritual correctness that makes them guard their thoughts and words?  I don’t know.  We learn from anyone who is honest and open.


From one person I learned about letting go of anger.  For years she had nursed an angry, and j justified bitterness, against her ex-husband, who was a pretty rotten guy.  But, now she was beginning to suspect that, in spite of her experience, there really might be a God who loves her, who clothed himself in the person of Jesus to bear our tragedies and failures.  As God begin to do cpr on her, she realized that the only way she could receive his love was if she gave up her hate.


I encouraged her to write a hate-letter, not to her ex, but to God, spelling out her anger and hurt.  When she was ready to let it go, I suggested that she burn it and bring me the ashes in a sandwich bag.  I would put those ashes on the Lord’s Supper table, right behind the flower arrangement.


You think that I will ever forget what I learned when she brought me those ashes? 


Not hardly.


Has God ever taught you something through an unlikely person?