The church always deals with that fine line between "prayer requests" and "bearing each others burdens" vs. "gossip" and "choosing sides". When does a well-intended request for prayer become a gossip item that divides and can ultimately break down trust and loving relationships in the church?
Here are a couple things I have been thinking about:
1. It becomes gossip when it is shared with new or weak Christians.
2. It becomes gossip when pray-ers tell other people, whether they are believers or not.
3. It becomes gossip when it is shared or talked about in public by the pray-ers.
4. It becomes gossip when it is a form of entertainment to talk about it.
5. It becomes gossip when it demands that the hearer choose a side instead of praying objectively.
Those are starters to "prime the pump". I would love to hear how you draw the line for yourself before you spread information you have received from someone else.
Who should you talk to? When should you not ask for prayer for someone else's personal issues? When is it appropriate to choose sides? What do you do when you feel someone else has overstepped their boundaries and entered into a place of gossip? Should you do something? How does gossip effect the church? What does it do to trust, friendship and love for your neighbor? Do you usually check your sources, or just pass information along?