Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. According to the Scriptures, if we don’t love one another, we cannot claim to love God.
Good news: Historically Christians have been known and marked for their love for one another. For example, Aristides, a second-century Greek philosopher, observed how Christians in the early church cared for one another, “If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.”
Bad news: We struggle to live out our faith, and professing Christians can fail to love one another well. People who have been around the Christian faith a long time can even learn how to backstab each other in a way that appears Christian. Of course, it is not. It is deceitful and disingenuous.
Manipulative people familiar with the Christian faith can actually use Christian language to embolden their backstabbing. They can call someone friend and brother while manipulating and dividing. They can disguise their sinful behavior with the language of the people of God. It is pretty nauseating when you think on it. Backstabbing among the people of God is a deep violation of our faith and a horrible representation of our faith to the world.
With that in mind, here are three ways you can spot “Christian backstabbing” (I put “Christian backstabbing” in quotes because there is nothing Christian about it):
1. Backstabbers frame gossip as prayer requests.
A common technique is to frame gossip as “simply sharing a prayer request so you can pray specifically.” Those who employ this technique simply open their gossip session this way and then feel free to share anything they want. If someone does a lot of talking and very little praying, you have spotted a backstabber.
2. Backstabbers talk about the person rather than to the person.
Another common technique is to “ask for wisdom” from someone about someone else. The best “Christian backstabbers” don’t only “ask for wisdom” from one person, they methodically bounce around to many people to build alliances or tear someone down. This completely disregards Jesus’ teaching about resolving conflict. Jesus told us to go directly to the person before escalating to other people and to even leave our offering at the altar to go make things right with another believer. If you are listening to a list of complaints about someone and interrupt to ask, “Have you talked to him/her?” and the answer is “No,” then you have spotted a backstabber.
3. Backstabbers know lots of information on lots of people.
“Lots of people come to me because I am there for them and they trust me.” Sounds like a very Christian thing to say, right? But the person who continually hears gossip from others is likely the person who sends the signal that he/she wants to hear it. Backstabbers excel at having info on everyone else so they can leverage it at times that suit them. For this reason, it must be exhausting and tiring to be a backstabber.
Someone who gossips about and backstabs another person is likely to do the same to you.
This article originally appeared here.