by Richard Mansel
Serious questions deserve a thoughtful response. Addressing this particular one takes great care. It must first be deconstructed. If we do not pursue it carefully, we will miss the overall logical answer, and instead grasp only the emotional one, thus distorting the answer. We must examine each component so we can arrive at a proper conclusion.
First, members of the Church of Christ are humans who possess the same kinds of weaknesses as everyone else. We all have sinned and will continue to do so (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:9,10). Some are judgmental, paranoid, crude, rude, arrogant, and a host of other character flaws. Most in the church do not possess these flaws, however. They are loving, gentle people who place souls first.
The Church of Christ, as a body, does not have an earthly headquarters that makes ecclesiastical pronouncements. Therefore, the Church of Christ, itself, cannot be judgmental. Only weak, sinful individuals in the church possess these traits. They need to shed their worldliness and assimilate kingdom attitudes (Ephesians 4:1; cf. Matthew 5-7).
Second, judging is not inherently wrong. The Bible tells us that it is, in some situations, required. Courts and juries must judge whether a crime has been committed (Romans 13). Churches must judge whether a member has become disorderly and between sound and false teachers (1 Corinthians 15:1-13; 2 Peter 2:1; Titus 3:10,11). Likewise, we must judge between false and true doctrines.
Matthew 7:1 does not mean we cannot judge. It means we must not judge based on faulty information or by standards we do not wish to be judged by. We judge lovingly by the word of God, alone (1 John 4:1; Ephesians 4:15).
If someone’s life clearly violates God’s will, we are not sinfully judging by recognizing the obvious fact. Instead, they have judged God and they are arguing with him, not the Christian (Luke 13:3-5).
Third, Christ built his church, that bears his name, and all others are outside of the body of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22,23; Ephesians 4:4). We are in the Lord’s body if we adhere to his word (John 14:15). In Scripture there is only one church, and we must see the world the same as Christ sees it. There is the Lord’s church and the world.
Denominationalism is contrary to Scripture, so it should not be our standard. Acknowledging that most people are in the world and lost is not judging but stating the obvious (Matthew 7:13,14).
In the worship services of the Lord’s church, visitors attend who believe false doctrines taught in denominations. Even some Christians have not shed these doctrines. Unteaching these doctrines requires that we call these doctrines by name and address them from Scripture. Someone cannot find truth unless they realize they need it. If they think the doctrines in their minds are correct, they will never accept any other teaching.
Calling the names of these denominations is often counterproductive. The names are immaterial. Their doctrines are the true problems. When we speak the truth in love we seek to engage their hearts and minds, not inflame their anger.
The Bible calls them to Christ, not away from false teachers. We show them the right way and, when necessary, shine the gospel light on error. We judge the error, not the sinner entrapped by the doctrine of devils.
We cannot reach the lost with a club, despite the desires of far too many in the church. We do so with the gospel and loving, gentle words, uncompromised and unyielding. We must fear God more than we fear men (Revelation 14:7; Acts 5:29).
by Richard Mansel