Taking up offenses

If Bill Gothard had lived at the time of William Wilberforce, he might have called him aside just before one of his impassioned speeches against the slave trade to Parliament (many or most of whose members greatly benefited directly or indirectly from the slave trade) and said, “Brother, you shouldn’t be doing this. You know we shouldn’t be taking up offenses.”

[I’m so tempted to go on a slight rabbit trail and say that if C J. Mahaney had been living at the time of William Wilberforce he might have called him aside and said, “Brother, you know you need to be searching for the sin in your own heart instead of calling out someone else,” but I will restrain myself lest I get off track.]

I loved the Bill Gothard seminars. I attended the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (or Life Principles, depending on which year it was) many times. I even asked my husband in 1993 if we could be one of the early ATI families. He said, “I don’t want some other man telling me how to lead my family in devotions.”

Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, I still believe that I learned some very good and helpful things through the Bill Gothard teachings. This, in spite of the fact that I have been keeping up with the Recovering Grace website and the shameful goings-on at headquarters during those same years.

It’s obvious that along with some helpful teachings, there were some very destructive teachings. But today I’m singling out only one: the concept of “not taking up offenses.”

Back in 2012 when I first got started taking up offenses for sexual abuse victims (although I’ve probably been pretty offensive all my life), I researched that term to try to understand it, because Bill Gothard’s words were ringing in my ears. Not that I felt guilty because of it—I knew I was doing the right thing. It was just that it was . . . so weird. Where did he ever get the concept that we shouldn’t speak out for the weak and oppressed. I mean, like, huh?

So Jesus looks at the Pharisees and says, “Well, I know they’re devouring widows’ houses [KJV, sorry, folks], but they’re not devouring MY house, since I don’t have one, so I can’t speak out about it. It’s not my battle to fight.”

And James, the author of the book of James, looks at the rich men who were withholding their laborers’ wages by fraud and said, “Well it’s not MY wages they’re keeping back, so it’s not my place to say anything.”

And the prophet Nathan, when God told him to go to David . . . oh, never mind. You get my drift.

I can’t find any Biblical reference to not speaking out for the oppressed, for not calling people out on their wretched sin of treading down the weak. Most especially the rich and powerful, whom to call out will be the most costly.  I’m absolutely flummoxed when people cite “not taking up offenses” as a reason.

The Bible, rather, calls us to do just the opposite. Stand with the weak and oppressed. Speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves. God is just, and the judge over all. He will do right. Let us do right with Him.

4 thoughts on “Taking up offenses

  1. I too, attended the seminars and I never got the impression that “not taking up offenses” meant to blindly and idly stand by while millions are starving or are used, abused, exploited, and rejected. I understood it to mean simply that I should not become angry at someone for what they have done or said to someone I know. It is not my place to be angry for or on behalf of someone else, someone who has a voice and can take care of the issue on their own, if they choose to. We ARE to be a voice for those who have no voice, to help those in dire need.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts, Mona. From what you’ve written, it sounds like you’re saying that I can be angry on behalf of people I don’t know, but shouldn’t be angry on behalf of people I know. Or maybe that I can be angry in a general way when I’m thinking about millions of people, but not in a specific way when I’m thinking about one individual.

    Bill Gothard used this teaching to exploit people under him, to fire people who were disloyal to him. Others who may have thought they were being mistreated dared not speak up for them lest they be guilty of taking up offenses. This is actually common practice in cultic-type environments.

    If someone is confused and thinking wrongly, even completely traumatized, thinking that it would be a sin to be angry about the evil that has happened to them, then yes, it’s my place to be angry on behalf of someone else, if if it’s an individual, even if it’s someone I know. This is what Jesus did, and we’re called to be like Him, to cry out against the evildoers of our day.

  3. Pingback: The Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical: Fifty Years of Yielding Rights and Not Taking Up Offenses

  4. I love the clarity you write with, Rebecca. And I love how this–“The Bible, rather, calls us to do just the opposite. Stand with the weak and oppressed. Speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves. God is just, and the judge over all. He will do right. Let us do right with Him”–translates into other arenas where Christians have been called to stand with the vulnerable and oppressed in different ways.

    We haven’t all been called to the same things–and too many causes would spread any one of us too thin–but we can support each other in bringing hope to people in so many situations and letting them know “You matter.”

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