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Learning from the Margins

Monday, 12 June 2023  | Nils von Kalm

I find that the people who teach me the most about the nature of God are rarely those in power in the church. It is instead those on the margins, not just of much of the church, but of the rest of society as well.

When I read that Jesus gave thanks that the things of God have been kept from the wise and learned, but revealed to marginalised people like infants, I feel deep comfort. I have seen it myself over and over again.

Once I was at a Christian conference and I saw a guy with an intellectual disability sitting on his own. Wanting to do the Christlike thing, I sat next to him, glad that I was able to be Christ to this man. He looked at me with a smile, put his arm around me and sat his head on my shoulders. Trying not to show how emotional this made me, I suddenly realised that he was showing Jesus to me.

Another time, I had just preached at a church and was sitting by myself after the service while the regulars chatted amongst themselves over their cups of tea and biscuits. Suddenly the vicar’s dog walked over, sat down next to me and put its paw on my hand. If the people of God won’t welcome a visitor, then God will make sure that an animal will!

Then there was the time I was supporting a guy with a severe mental illness. I wanted to make sure he felt heard and seen, but the lessons I learned about life from this stigmatised person touched me more deeply than anything a celebrity pastor or someone high up in the institutionalised church has ever given me.

If you want to know what Jesus is like, my experience is that you will most likely find out by hanging out with the marginalised, the stigmatised and the devalued. But prepare to be humbled, for your ego to be shattered ... and to be healed.


Nils von Kalm is Nils von Kalm is a Melbourne-based writer who is passionate about the relevance of Jesus to life in the 21st century. He is the author of Bending Towards Justice: How the Gospel is More Relevant Than Ever in the 21st Century (2019) and can be found online at


Image credit

Homeless Jesus by Ashwini Chaudhary (Monty) on Unsplash.

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