Are Members of the Church of Christ Too Judgmental?

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).

12 thoughts on “Are Members of the Church of Christ Too Judgmental?

  1. Good words. Intention is crucial in something of this sort. Galatians 4:16. Even God is judged by man as being unreasonable, just as a news report of a state legislature member from Nebraska illustrates.

  2. I am so glad that you have done this article. The thing that most caught my eye was the part that we cannot club people over the head to get them to Christ. I have seen some people try to do this and it is VERY unproductive and causes pain and confusion on the person they are trying to win to Christ. These type of Christians need to learn a little patience and love but it’s hard to tell them and/or teach them. These people think a “NEW” Christian should totally adhere to all the teachings IMMEDIATELY–including being at church every time the doors are open. I’m not saying this is okay, but when a person has had a BAD life and comes to the Lord in baptism, WE as Christian brothers and sisters must be patient and not hassle them about being in church EVERY service–right away. I believe the idea of being in church at everytime the door is open is very important but for someone who has just come to know Christ, they might not see that need right away and therefore be lovingly encouraged, but not judged harshly or hassled.

  3. Wonderful! Biblical! Thoughtful! Loving! Christ-like!
    Thank you so much for the admonition to speak the truth in love.

  4. How can you be so sure that the church of Christ has magicially found the true way of worship. What if you have made a little bitsy mistake in one of your practices. I personally have found the scriptures much too difficult to read and understand, and I can’t see how you can worship a loving God, who could expect the whole world to read and understand it literally, just as you do, or suffer the
    eternal consequences of hell.
    Example:
    No one is asking you to condone or embrace the homosexual partnership for yourself, personally. As a heterosexual, I knew immediately that I could no longer worship publicly with a congregation after our minister found out one of the members of the church of Christ where he served was gay and had a monogamous relationship, (much longer than most heterosexual marriages, incidentally) and decided it was his “Christian” duty to counsel this member, and ultimately the gay member took his own life. I knew right then some things should be left up to our Creator to judge. With attitudes like yours, do you not recognize that you are a cheerleader for the anti gay activists who far too often take it upon themselves to torment emotionally and often physically, the gays for no other reason than being who they are. Why not preach cleaning up the heterosexual conduct i.e. red light districts, discretionary relationship, no-fault divorce, etc., or do you teach that the truth only becomes the truth when other people find out about it. At least if gays decide to no longer share a relationship with one another, they do not leave little children to suffer the collateral damage. How in the world would you feel if sometime in the future we learn that the gays do have a biological reason for their being gay. If nature can cause a glitch in so many of the characteristics that make up a human being, why can’t the hormones, testosterones, etc., be subject to a little quirky variation? And, how do you explain little babies born who are physically trans-gender? How awful you will feel if someday that is proven without a doubt. The church of Christ doctrine is too elite for me to subscribe to. It is almost like the members think they are the only true believers and believe the only truth. That is really painful for those who have family members, wonderful friends and loved ones, who for some reason think they have “found the way” and it is their mission to show you! In earthly terms this would be described as the ultimate “snobbish” way of thinking. I do not think a loving Creator would leave us with only a book much like “Finding Waldo”, and woe unto ye who do not understand and interpret it the same as the believers in your church. The Creator created the entire universe, everything, and everyone. I am ashamed that you have reduced Him to Someone who would in turn condemn everyone to Hell unless we see eye to eye on your method of praising Him. Please!

  5. Hello, Hope. Thanks for reading Forthright.
    You are a precious soul and I am happy to try and help you. I hope you will see that I am trying to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
    Your story is interesting and it seems to color your opinion of the church, which isn’t fair. To take one situation and extend it to millions of people is stereotyping.
    In my article I pointed out that people in the Church of Christ are humans. We all sin and some are immature and behave badly. Not ALL are this way. This would be like saying that since two squirrels bite people, we must go around and destroy all squirrels. Yet, we all know that most squirrels do not bite humans.
    Homosexuality is a sin and is not natural, being contrary to God’s plan (Romans 1:26-27,1 Corinthians 6:9). What science thinks has no bearing on this whatsoever (Psalm 119:89).
    If someone is in sin and it threatens their soul by leading them away from God, then it is the responsibility of a brother or sister in Christ to try and reach out to them to help them be saved from spiritual death (1 Peter 4:8).
    The fact that they committed suicide and the fact that someone wanted to help them see their sin are different things. I was not there but I can tell you that the person who committed suicide did so of their own volition. It is very sad that they killed themselves. However, there may be much more to the story than people realize.
    Even if the preacher or other Christians were weak and sinful and expressed hate, it only means they were sinning. The church, as a whole, should not be held responsible for their sins.
    We have not magically found the truth on worship. It has been in Scripture for thousands of years. The fact that others don’t see it, is regretful.
    We see what the New Testament church was taught to do by the Apostles and do that. The Apostles who were led by the Holy Spirit. If doing what they did makes us snobbish, then the Apostles were snobbish. And you would certainly not make that charge.
    God is not ought to destroy us for sin. His grace and mercy are more mature than that.
    I have articles that deal with this. “Can We Live Good Enough to Be Saved?” and “It’s All About Christ” and “Saved by Grace through Faith” are three.
    I have articles under my Square One Column that explain the false idea that we think that those in the Church of Christ are the only ones going to heaven. I hope you will read them and let me know what you think.
    Good Day!

  6. Why is it that the church of christ pounces on some “sins” and not others? For example, someone who is gay will get disfellowshiped. Someone who stops attended services will get disfellowshipped. Someone who’s marriage is considered unscriptural will be disfellowshipped. But someone who envys another, someone who is arrogant, or someone who weighs 500 pounds (gluttonous) isn’t disciplined this way? It seems like the church of christ insists (evidenced by steps toward and including disfellowship) that some sins are worse than others, completely overlooking some, while confronting others even in front of an entire congregation. Where is this approach supported in the bible?

  7. Cindy, thanks for reading the article. You are touching on several different areas and I don’t know that I will have the time, right now, to answer all of them. We need to be precise and not conflate issues. Breaking them down into their component parts is very important.
    Sins are sins. They all separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Scripture tells us not to bear false doctrine (Galatians 1:8-10, et al).
    We are to take a stand against sin. We are taught to disfellowship when someone sins and persists in doing so, refusing to repent (Matthew 18:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15). There aren’t specific sins that trigger that process. Sin is all evil (Romans 3:23).
    People do not always handle things properly. However, most everyone thinks they are innocent, no matter what they have done. Hurt feelings do not axiomatically mean something was mishandled.
    Guttony does not refer simply to overeating.
    http://tinyurl.com/ny57mp
    Once again, the Church of Christ does not have a national headquarters or governing body. So the “Church of Christ” is not guilty of doing anything. People are guilty of things and people who handle things Scripturally should not be blamed for those who do things unscripturally.
    Hope this overly brief answer helps shed some light on the matter.

  8. Actually it doesn’t. As I’ve been reading the different articles, you continue to claim the church of christ does not teach these things that I, and others, have addressed. Perhaps you don’t believe the coc SHOULD teach those things, but the FACT is that the coc DOES teach these things, as I have witnessed first hand for more than 40 years now. I say this not out of malice, but as an observations: I think your explanations are nothing more than an easy cop-out. You say there may be certain individuals who misspeak and that they do not represent the church, as the coc has no centralized governing body. Well I’m here to tell you that every congregation I have ever attended, and there have been many, has preached these things, such as only people in coc congregations can enter heaven, disfellowshipping those who try to leave. And yes, when some sins result in disfellowshipping while others never do, those ARE sins that trigger disfellowshipping. It is an unwritten policy in the church of christ to disfellowship what they perceive as “worse sins”. If this were not true, we would see lots of people being disfellowshipped for gluttony, for not honoring their bodies when they get a tattoo (or refusing to have it removed), for wearing braided hair and gold, for sloth, etc. How many people have you known to be disfellowshipped for any of the sins I mentioned above? Before you answer, consider that if you never admit anyone else is right and you are perhaps wrong, people will see that as arrogant. And I believe arrogance is a sin.
    I realize this post is quite challenging, but I assure you, it is meant to show you another perspective, not to cause harm.

  9. People are weak and sinful in every religious group, Cindy. I am telling how things are done properly. I am very sorry to hear that you have found those who do things without love of Scriptural authority. As I said, it is not indicative of all of us.
    We have to make sure that our hurt doesn’t color our vision to the point that we can’t those who do things properly.
    I have seen people in the church who do unscriptural things all the time. That is wrong and we all should condemn it.
    You wrote,
    “It is an unwritten policy in the church of christ to disfellowship what they perceive as ‘worse sins’.”
    *********
    Some sins do have more weight than others, in that the consequences are weightier. But, no, there isn’t a standard policy to do this. Yes, some do it in an unscriptural way.
    Almost no one disfellowships anyone anymore, truth be told. And that is a problem because it is scriptural.
    You wrote,
    “If this were not true, we would see lots of people being disfellowshipped for gluttony, for not honoring their bodies when they get a tattoo (or refusing to have it removed), for wearing braided hair and gold, for sloth, etc. How many people have you known to be disfellowshipped for any of the sins I mentioned above?”
    *********
    I’ve not been in a congregation where anyone has been disfellowshipped for anything.
    It is handled properly in many places and in others it is done improperly.
    You wrote,
    “Before you answer, consider that if you never admit anyone else is right and you are perhaps wrong, people will see that as arrogant. And I believe arrogance is a sin.”
    I don’t know what you mean by this. Yes, arrogance is a sin. Surely you don’t think I am being arrogant.
    God Bless.

  10. While I continue to disagree with most of what you have written, I commend you for discussing these issues with an attitude of love. The coc I was raised in shamed people for daring the question anything. We were taught that if we disagreed openly with the preacher, elders or our teachers, that we were sewing discord. This was not just my own perception, but was whispered about by quite a few people. I personally recall at least one person being chastised from the pulpit by an elder who read a “pre disfellowship” letter to make the congregation aware of the fact that this person was trying to plant false doctrine because he questioned and/or disagreed with something. It truly is sad the abuse that occured in the coc congregation I grew up in. I am happy to know that you are more approachable than they were.
    And regarding the arrogance comment: I don’t perceive you as arrogant in the usual sense of the word. What I do think is arrogant is that any particular religious group believes they are the only ones who have got it right. There are thousands of religions out there today and quite a few of them believe their way is the only way,that all other roads lead to hell. Each of them can point out book, chapter and verse in support of their own doctrine. But it is my personal opinion that God would not be happy to see any church proclaiming they are the only ones right. Especially with the passage of thousands of years since the bible was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and the various translations, all claiming accuracy. I don’t believe there is any church in today’s world that should pronounce themselves the ones who have it right. That, imo, is arrogant. Perhaps you are not one of those. Thanks for the discussion and have a nice day 🙂

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