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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Speaking Through an Ass

I realize it’s easy for me to speak negatively about the churches I grew up in. After all, there are many, many problems in the way that they interpret the Bible and use it to manipulate. I’m not going to gloss over it, because it needs to be said, and untold damage has been done to many, many people because of this legalistic view of Scripture and God.


My experiences weren’t universally negative. In fact, I met some wonderful, loving, caring people in my churches and life. These were people who genuinely loved Jesus and other people, and they believed that this particular type of church was the best way to show that love.

Allow me to give an example.

There was a church in a small town outside of Des Moines, Iowa. Rachel and I first began attending that church shortly after we met at college. The church was on the list of approved churches we were allowed to attend that was given to us by the college (No, I’m not joking. I’m 100% serious).

When we began attending this church, we immediately felt welcomed. There were not a large number of young adults in the church, with it mostly being made up of older individuals. They had a Christian homeschooling collective that met there during the week as well, which probably won’t surprise anyone. They also took the Bible seriously, literally, and unapologetically.

This led to some questionable theology, as they believed that their interpretation of the Bible was the correct one, and that in order to truly honor God, you needed to align yourself with their beliefs.


People’s lives were truly changed at this church.

In fact, there was a man who began attending that church during our time there. While attending the church, people started to welcome him into their lives and to share genuine love with him. Over time, this led him to have a conversion experience.

And then his life changed.

He was on the run from the law for some crimes he had committed in the past. With encouragement from other members in the church, the man went to turn himself in to the police. This resulted in his being sentenced to serve time in jail. Therefore, he was not present at services for a long time after that.

But the church members’ love didn’t stop. They organized letter-writing and visitation campaigns. They made sure that the man didn’t have to serve his time alone and forgotten. I haven’t been to that church in many years, but that man’s experience had a lasting impact on me.

It is a true demonstration of the loving, crazy, unstoppable love of God. And this man’s life was not the only one changed at that little church.

Why am I sharing this?

Because it’s an important reminder for me (and hopefully all of us) not to put God in a box. God can work through imperfect systems and imperfect humans to demonstrate his love to humanity in unbelievable ways.

And that’s how he works through me. The Christian singer Rich Mullins once said, “I had a professor one time... He said, 'Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since.” And that’s how God speaks through me. None of us has 100% of the truth. Those of us who believe that we do are just plain wrong.

And yet.

And yet, God chooses to show his love through us, fallible, broken people to change hearts and lives.

Let us remember never to put God into a box, and to remember that he can work through anyone, if only we are willing. Let us also remember that he can work with people we disagree with, even those with whom we share immense philosophical or theological disagreements.

God’s love cannot be constrained.

"I am sure that nothing can separate us from God's love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Romans 8:38, 39, Contemporary English Bible)

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