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On Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, Bill Gothard sent out a mass email to his followers. It was entitled, “Let’s Celebrate Easter…by Doing the Impossible!” You can view a screenshot of the entire email here.
In the email, Gothard writes about how the 49 “commands of Christ” can be applied to the “seven stresses” of “anger, guilt, lust, bitterness, greed, fear, and envy.” He then proceeds to write about how seven of these commands can be used to resolve the “stress” of anger.
In an attempt prove his point, Gothard uses a portion of the Old Testament account of David and Saul, particularly the account found in 1 Samuel 23. This is the narrative of when David encountered his pursuer King Saul sleeping in a cave, chose not to take his life, and ultimately confronted him about his desire to kill.
Upon reading the email, we found it to be an incredibly blatant misuse of Scripture. While this comes as no surprise to many of our readers, there are still many of his followers who believe that Gothard “rightly divides the word of truth.” We believe that this email illustrates the fact that Gothard has no qualms about taking Scripture and attempting to make it prove his own notions about spirituality and the Christian walk.
While we are certain that most readers will be able to quickly identify the errors and Scripture twisting contained within the email, we thought we would walk through the email and highlight the 20 most egregious fallacies.
Seven commands that relate to the stress of anger are to repent, rejoice, go to offenders, love your enemies, give perfect greetings, honor parents, and go the second mile. David had many reasons to be angry at Saul for trying to kill him, and Saul was angry at David because of his popularity. But when David carried out the essence of these seven commands, the impossible took place!"
We all sinned "in Adam" when Adam put his own intellect above God’s Word so he could decide for himself what he thought was right or wrong. Repentance involves turning from this prideful attitude and placing our intellect under the authority of God's Word.
When David learned that the Philistines were attacking the city of Keilah, he did not depend upon his own reasoning. He “inquired of the Lord . . . . And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.” This was irrational to David’s men, so “David inquired of the Lord yet again. And the Lord answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah . . .” (I Samuel 23:2–4)."
We are to rejoice in all situations, especially when others speak evil of us and say all manner of lies against us falsely for Christ's sake. “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad,” because God is going to do the impossible through you and you will have great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12).
When Saul heard that David was in Keilah, “Saul called all the people together” to kill David and his men. But David again inquired of the Lord and was told to flee. And “God delivered him not into [Saul’s] hand” (I Samuel 23:8, 14). This was cause for David to rejoice."
It is only as we go directly to our offenders that we can find out the reasons for their offense and make an appeal for reconciliation.
God arranged for David to have an unexpected “face to face” meeting with Saul when Saul came into the cave in which David and his men were hiding. While Saul slept, David’s men urged him to kill Saul, but David reminded them that Saul was anointed by the Lord, and he would not lift up a hand against him. David later spoke directly with Saul when he left the cave."
When we go to our offenders, they must see that we have a genuine love for them. We are not coming to them to accuse them or retaliate against them but to demonstrate our love for them.
An important aspect of loving our enemies is protecting them. This is what David did to Saul in the cave."
A "perfect" greeting is giving the same warm greeting to a stranger that we would give to our best friend. This means showing value and worth to every person whom we meet, including our enemies.
David embraced Saul "in the arms of his heart" when he called to Saul outside the cave and began his appeal by saying, “My lord the king” (I Samuel 24:8)."
Much anger stems from a wrong relationship with our parents. God promises that if we honor them even when they are hard to get along with, things will go well with us. (See Ephesians 6:2–3.)
Saul was David’s father-in-law. David honored him when David “stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself ” (I Samuel 24:8). After David’s appeal, the impossible took place: Saul repented of his wrong and blessed David: “Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil . . . . I know well that thou shalt surely be king” (I Samuel 24:16–17, 20)."
Going the second mile is possible only after we joyfully complete the first mile.
After David spared Saul’s life and received a blessing from Saul, he went the second mile and promised that he would not destroy Saul’s descendants when he became the king. Now read I Samuel 23–24 for further rich treasures!"
While Gothard doesn’t define exactly what he means by “impossible,” in the context of the rest of the email and his decades of teaching, he clearly believes that living a life that follows the Law and the “Commands of Christ” is essential to successful Christian living. This is something that even Gothard acknowledges is “impossible” to do perfectly. If the purpose of the Resurrection was to give us the tools to “do the impossible,” it has been a miserable failure.
It’s hard to read this email and not wonder if Gothard is uncomfortable with a resurrection that is an avenue for sanctification apart from adherence to the law. Jesus taught that the law condemned us, and that he came to fulfill it. He implored those of us who are weak and burdened to take His yoke upon us, for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30).
Do not misunderstand us here. We do not believe the freedom given by the resurrection is a “license for lasciviousness.” It is the power to walk in a new life free from the burden of the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). It’s the power to follow after Christ and learn to let His ways become our ways. The Christian walk is not about a list of things to do, it’s about walking in a relationship with the living Savior. This is not a subtle difference. A popular Christian catchphrase states that “Religion says do,” whereas, “Jesus says done.” Maybe it would be appropriate in this case to say that “Gothard says do; Jesus says done.”
Easter is indeed a celebration of what Christ has DONE, not a time to be reminded of what we need to DO. It’s disturbing to see how Bill Gothard uses such a joyful time to remind his followers of all the things they need to do in order to achieve the “impossible.” This focus on doing has led many people to give up and walk away from the faith. That’s why we need a risen Savior. Easter is when we celebrate that Christ has already done the impossible when He conquered death.
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