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 I learned some helpful things through the Bill Gothard seminars. But intermingled with those helpful teachings were some very destructive teachings. (I understand that the ATI teachings were far, far worse, and extremely legalistic, as the Recovering Grace website exposes, coupled with the very shameful goings-on at headquarters, even during the time when I attended the seminar.)

But today I’m singling out only one of those destructive teachings: 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.


Update October 2016: My most recent book, Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind, quotes from a couple of the replies to this blog post. It was one of the earliest ones that planted a seed that later grew into more thoughts that later became that book. I hope it will help untwist the truth of Scripture for many.

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8 years ago

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.

Aaron Bristol
Aaron Bristol
2 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

I really feel as though there is a lack of “defining your terms” here. If you are offended at me because of how I treat somebody else. What is the process of reconciliation? What is the process of reconciliation between you and me? It seems that standing up for injustices can be done without carrying a personal offense against those who have been perpetrating the evils. Instead of a scenario that is as horrific as trafficking small children at the Super Bowl in the sex trade, which should absolutely be resisted, if your husband comes home and relays a story of how I yelled profanities at him in traffic, Do you get to righteously hold on offense against me?

Prudence Dagg
Prudence Dagg
6 years ago

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.”


[…] the days when I was following the SGM/CLC/Mahaney story only peripherally, I made a tongue-in-cheek reference to CJ Mahaney rebuking William Wilberforce (for going up against Parliament regarding the slave […]

1 year ago

Can’t say I totally agree with your simplistic view of “taking up an Offense on behalf of another”.
We can offended, be angry at injustice and act on behalf of another, totally agree of course with the leading of the Lord. However to allow a grudge or animosity and actively treating that other person with contempt is a sin.
Be angry but sin not.
What we think in our heart about someone doesn’t even need our actions to be sin, lust and adultery for example in the ten commandments.
It’s hard enough to be righteously offended and take the cause of another secondhand without first hand experience or facts, but then to character assassinate someone (have a grudge) is thinking evil of them.
It’s an offense taken that will never see reconciliation in your heart, only grow, taint opinion and judgement and do no good for anyone.
Offense is to be annoyed and strike against in the Latin.
If you used the word “righteous indignation” for example, then I can fully see your point.
To take offense on behalf of someone else in today’s terms rarely comes with an attitude of reconciliation but of joining in grievances and is destructive for all people involved, not to mention that it casts judgement too easily with very little facts involved and for that we are instructed to take our own log out first.
To righteously defend someone is very different than an angry heart looking for an outlet.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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