Taking an honest look into the character of the people around us, is one way to find out which people are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s not that difficult, but it means we need to open our eyes to what the bible has to say about character, and then be willing to accept the truth, when we see the red flags. Many people don’t want to face the fact that someone they know, and love, could be a wolf, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. False Christians will cause division in your home, church, circle of friends, and communities.
What is a false or fake Christian? In the New Testament, the apostle Paul warns, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceived the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18 New International Version). They are not serving God, but they pretend that they do.
Have you ever had a positive relationship with someone, that was mainly a pleasant encounter for both of you? There was no animosity or hard feelings between the two of you; things were just fine? Suddenly, out of the blue, that person started to avoid you. If she called now and then to say hello, it stopped. Comments on social media ended. Your emails and text messages were ignored. You knew that this friend or acquaintance was no longer just busy. Then something clicked. You realized that your friend recently spent time with someone who has something against you; a gossip. The gossip will not admit it, but she considers you to be an enemy, and she has once again slandered your name. You’re well aware of it, because it’s a continuous, vicious cycle. “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
By paying attention to the scriptures, we can protect ourselves from getting involved with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. These false Christians may speak like Christians, act like Christians, and appear to be walking like Christians. But something is always off. They are bitter and angry. They are not growing. They are not walking with The Lord. For a variety of reasons, they are faking it. You can visibly witness a true Christian’s walk with Jesus. You will see him grow, and change over time. Christians actually lose their desire to sin, and they allow the Holy Spirit to open their hearts, guide them, and mold them into people who become more like Jesus. Jesus doesn’t gossip and gather people to hate others. He gathers them to spread love.
God acknowledges, in the bible, that there are people close to us, in our own churches, friendship circles, and families, who are fake Christians. Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of his own disciples. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The wolf, is an excellent actor, one with plenty of practice building a life around manipulation and lies. Some wolves hope to win you with self-pity. They make it seem as if the world is against them. They may visit your church, corner you when you’re alone, and tell you a sob story to make you feel sorry for them. Some seek to use and con you for easy money, playing both you, and the system at the same time. Some use flattery to try and win you over. “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5).
Other wolves will gossip, slander, and stab people in the back. They hope to build an army of people who will hate the same people they hate. They work to isolate the victims of their lies, so no one will talk to each other and find out the truth. They don’t want to be alone in their sin, because then they would have to face the truth about themselves. If they are able to deceive us when we are already in the word of God, imagine the havoc they can create for those who are not reading the bible on a continuous basis. God hates this kind of behavior, and He promises to take care of it; “Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate” (Psalm 101:5). The bible is the tool that helps us to see through the manipulation and lies!
A wolf uses guilt in a cunning way. She may try to make you feel bad for not spending more time with her, for not returning a phone call, or for spending time with other friends, especially if she has gossiped to those people about you. Some wolves in sheep’s clothing are so good at getting their way, they will even manipulate you into doing their dirty work! “Oh, I would never do that,” we might say. But if you’ve ever spoken on behalf of someone else, and jumped in on a whim to try and “help” them solve a problem that does not concern you, you’ve enabled the wolf to continue in sin. Who wants to help a wolf, and risk getting ripped to pieces?
“We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies” ( 2 Thessalonians 3:11). Haven’t we all at one time, found ourselves ignoring someone else, because of a rumor we heard about that person? We felt so sorry for the wolf, we may have actually missed out on the truth of who was really being mistreated. If you find yourself in a situation where you are no longer talking to a friend or relative with whom you previously enjoyed a relationship, because of some gossip you heard, consider that to be a red flag. Maybe letting go of the friend was subtle, such as dropping her from your party invitation list, or not stopping to have a quick chat in the grocery store when you normally would have. Are we willing to give up friendships based on another’s perception, or will we be paying close attention to the character of the gossip and not fall prey to devious schemes?
A manipulating wolf will tell bold-faced lies, creatively weaving them with the truth, to make them sound more believable. Manipulators tend to blame and project their problems and issues onto an innocent scapegoat, in an effort to keep people from seeing the truth. Being aware of these tactics enables us to remove our blindfolds, so that we can avoid being deceived by those trying to hide their own sin. After all, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17 English Standard Version). When we hear things about others that don’t line up with their good character, we should question the character of the gossip. We should ask God why we are in the situation as a listener. Were we cornered or tricked? Are we being persuaded to get involved? Are we strong enough to rebuke the wolf and say we won’t be part of it?
In grade school, we learn about the common denominator. A wolf in sheep’s clothing causes strife everywhere he goes. Strife is the opposite of peace. Have you ever spent time with someone, in varied environments, situations, and company, and later realized that every time you’re with this someone, you just don’t feel good after your time together? Maybe afterwards, you feel anxious, guilty, angry, or depressed? This person is the common denominator! A wolf stirs up stress, problems, and drama. He brings out the worst in everyone: jealousy, envy, hate, self-righteousness, pride, and more. Isn’t it interesting that every time the wolf leaves your home, you end up feeling …down? That’s because evil spirits at work have been having a field day. “An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the Lord will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25 New American Standard Bible).
A wolf in sheep’s clothing will be extra eager to tear apart a Christian brother or sister. Godly people do not do this. They seek to establish boundaries, take time to heal and forgive others, and allow others to do the same. They seek restoration of relationships, yet they also know which relationships are harmful, and which ones need to be cut off, whether for short term or long term. The opposite of a wolf, is a true Christian walking with God. A true Christian seeks to lift up others and encourage them. You can look at the character of a true Christian, when deciding who you should believe and trust. If you’re in a difficult situation, and think you may be dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing, look at the character of the people involved. “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV). You should feel good about yourself after spending time with a Christian who is walking with God. Love should emanate from then, and your heart should feel joyful. You should have a sense of peace after you have spent time together.
It can be difficult sometimes, when we are battling the truth, but if we spend time praying, reading our bibles, and talking to God, He will teach us who we can trust. Pray against deceit. Ask God for wisdom, and He will “pull the wool from your eyes”. We may be saved by grace, but are we walking the Christian walk? Let’s follow Jesus, the great shepherd, rather than blindly going along with what the rest of the flock believe. Don’t let a wolf steal you away. Let the Lord be your shepherd.
What to do…
… if you’re a wolf:
Ask God to forgive you for being deceitful. Come clean, and ask forgiveness of those you have lied to and lied about. Seek out a Christian counselor who can help you identify your sinful patterns and help you onto a path of healing.
… if you’re an enabler
Ask God to forgive you for being an enabler. Ask God to give you the courage to say no to people who gossip. Ask Him to show you how to create healthy boundaries. Ask forgiveness of anyone you have hurt with your enabling. Seek Christian counseling, if you feel you may be getting involved with others’ problems to make up for past pain that needs healing.
“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the innermost parts of the body” (Prov. 26:20-22). Read more about this topic in Pursue the Shepherd to Escape the Wolves, and by clicking on the topic narcissism at The Silver Lining homepage.