Frequently Asked Question: Isn’t It Wrong To Take Up The Offenses Of Others?

July 1, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

For a long, long time, now, I’ve been meaning to put up a FAQ (“Frequently Asked Questions”) page.  But somehow, I’ve just never gotten around to it.  I guess it’s because the task seems a little bit daunting.  There are quite a few questions that do get asked over and over again.

So I decided that maybe I’ll break the FAQ task down into a series of posts, which ultimately we’ll compile and put into a separate tab at the top of the site.  These topics will be addressed in no particular order of importance.  Rather, we’ll discuss each FAQ as it comes to mind.

For our first topic, we’ll be talking about the following question:

Isn’t it a sin to “take up the offenses of others”?

I think this is an interesting question.  After all, where in the Bible do we actually read that “taking up others’ offenses” is a practice that is always sinful, anyway?

I wrote the following response in this site’s early days:

The more I’ve thought about it and prayed about it, and the more I studied Scripture, the more this whole thing has begun to seem odd to me. First of all, I still haven’t found a straightforward command in the Bible against “sharing others’ offenses.” There’s an element, of course, of common sense about this, where in the interest of peacemaking and “thinking on the things that are pure, lovely, and of good report,” a believer would be foolish for making a habit out of going around and taking on the offenses of others.

But…on the other hand…

If nobody ever “took up others’ offenses,” then how would justice ever work itself out on this earth? While God is certainly able to intervene supernaturally on behalf of the downtrodden, doesn’t He more often than not choose to intervene through human hands yielded to Him?

If “taking up the offenses of others” is a sin, then wouldn’t all those soldiers who fought the Nazis be guilty? How about those who take up the cause of the unborn, fighting against abortion? How about the advocates for child abuse victims? Are THEY sinning?

Of course, I realize those are extreme examples. And, those are all groups of people who are unable to take up their own offenses, so to speak. Do the people who have been hurt by spiritual abuse fall into the same category? Do THEY need an advocate?

I’d never feel bold enough to say that I can be anyone’s advocate, but I do believe that those who have been mistreated in church situations can very often find themselves in a place where they are unable to do anything about what they’ve experienced. Often, they are so entrenched in the thinking that church leadership has promoted that they have lost the ability to recognize an offense for what it is – behavior that is totally inappropriate from a church leader – and instead feel a sense of condemnation because they aren’t “spiritually mature” enough to “just move on.” Years and years of incorrectly expanded teachings on gossip, too, will leave someone feeling paranoid about the potential for sin in merely putting into words what they observed and experienced. Also, if you’ve been taught that you must submit to your authorities no matter what, you will never be able to step outside an unjust church discipline experience to see it for what it was – you will continue to believe, even if your senses are telling you otherwise, that the sinful party is still YOU.

So yes, although it seems a little implausible, I believe that spiritual abuse is a situation where victims may need some help in handling their offenses in a productive, positive way that will bring about the healing and reconciliation that God desires for them. I’ve come to believe, from everything that has been shared on this site and with me via email, that Sovereign Grace Ministries has promoted in many cases a unique set of circumstances that have left people feeling improperly condemned and utterly powerless to fight back against actions and teachings from church leaders that are false, manipulative, and downright WRONG.

As I pondered the question of whether it was ALWAYS “sinful” to get upset on another person’s behalf, it hit me that perhaps Sovereign Grace’s strong emphasis on this rather unique area of “sin” was more a tool of control – much the same as SGM’s stringent and expanded teachings on what constitutes “gossip.” Maybe over the years, SGM leadership has come to the realization that it’s not always possible to keep people from discussing their church hurts and disappointments, even when they’ve been heavily trained that to have such a discussion would be to engage in “gossip.” Maybe that’s why leadership has categorized “taking up another’s offenses” as an across-the-board “sin” – because it’s a second layer of protection against having a group of hurt and disgruntled church members rising up and pressing leadership for change.

So ultimately, I’ve concluded that while “taking up others’ offenses” is pretty clearly NOT a good thing to do when those offenses are trivial or way off base, it simply cannot always be wrong. And I do not think that it is wrong here. These issues within many SGM churches, which would include some structural matters – such as SGM’s stringent and sometimes unjust discipline processes – as well as some teachings – such as CJ’s teachings on unquestioning submission to church authorities – have been going on for a long, long time. Yet this blog was somehow the first place where these things have been discussed openly in a broader way.

To me, it’s obvious that this silence has been going on for far too long. While not all members of all churches are affected by these problems, there are enough stories from a broad enough sampling across the country (and even in England) for me to believe that somebody needs to say something.

Or at least have a spot on the internet where these people can say something for themselves.

© 2009, Kris. All rights reserved.