Normally, working with The Ichthus is an incredibly rewarding experience. Of course, with any great job, there will be boring tasks that need to be fulfilled. One of the more tedious things that I have to do is moderate the comments on our website. This wasn’t so bad at the beginning, but in recent months, we’ve gotten an overwhelming number of spam comments. I wouldn’t normally write a post on such a mundane topic, but I think comment moderation can illustrate an important point about sin.
A good number of the comments are quite obviously spam. When I come across a comment that says something like “PORN FREE <LINK> PORN INSERT FAMOUS ACTRESS’ NAME NAKED <LINK> PORN NAKED <LINK> FREE,” it’s rather obvious that it’s spam (that being one of the more tame examples, unfortunately). I actually don’t mind those ones AS much. I can look at it and conclude that it’s spam instantaneously. It only takes a couple of seconds to mark spam and to move on.
Then you get the slightly less obvious ones. The comment will be something like “Good post, I can’t say that I agree with everything that was said, but very good information overall:)” The dead giveaway on this spam is the name. In this case, the commenter’s name is listed as “pocket watches.” So moderating that one takes a few more seconds of thought, but is still not too time-consuming.
The really frustrating comments are ones which reference the website or the article AND have a real name. But the website is totally unrelated and the email looks fake. Those ones take more time because I have to look up the website (if it’s selling something, that’s an obvious sign of spam). If the reference is simply cursory, with a word like “faith” or something taken from the title of the page, that’s generally an indication of spam. Most human commenters will make more serious and well thought through criticisms or commendations. But the robot spammers are getting smarter. Last week, I faced a comment which sounded exactly like a human had written it – it actually responded to the original post. I would have approved it – in spite of the questionable website link – if it hadn’t sounded strangely familiar. When I went back to the post, I realized that the new comment had simply copied one of the previous comments on the page. Now spam bots are copying old comments so that they appear even more human.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve wasted so much of your time complaining about comment moderation, but besides simply needing some method of venting my frustrations, I also realize that sin is a lot like spam comments.
It’s very easy for us to look at the blatant, obvious style sins – I’m thinking adultery, murder, fornication, theft – and to avoid them. It’s almost as simple as my cursory glance at a “FREE PORN” comment. We can label it in a second and move on. But sin becomes much more difficult to deal with, however, when it’s not so clear. For example, Revelation 21:8 says “all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” It’s fairly easy to avoid blatant lies. But what about lies of omission? What about little white lies? In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus doesn’t say simply to avoid lying, but that deceit makes a man unclean. The real question becomes: what counts as deceit?
Deceit isn’t as obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less sinful, just like the spam comments that vaguely reference the content of the post. The comment isn’t as clearly fake, but that doesn’t make it any less spam. These comments are harder to moderate; deceit is harder to avoid. Sometimes I’ll accidentally let one through; sometimes we will accidentally fall into being deceitful. When I’ve realized that this has happened with the comments – as soon as I’ve noticed my error – I have to go back through the approved comments and make sure I haven’t made any other mistakes. When I’ve fallen into the less obvious sins, I have to go back over my behavior and thoroughly search my heart. 2 Timothy 3 warns:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
Boasting, loving money, being ungrateful or unloving – these are the challenging sins to avoid. It is often much harder to recognize when we’re being self-centered than it is for me to figure out which comments are spam, but that doesn’t excuse our behavior. Let us never fall into thinking that such things are not sinful. Spam is spam, no matter how crafty the bots get. Sin is sin, no matter how much Satan may try to trick us.
Thank you, for not being mad at me when I do let the spam comments through. Praise God that we have mercy and grace for the times where we slip into being malicious or ungrateful or lazy or prideful. Prayerfully, we can be wary of these sins which are harder to spot and eradicate from our lives. For there are many fine non-Christians who don’t murder, cheat, or steal, but what will truly distinguish followers of Jesus Christ is how much we strive to avoid deceit, greed, and ingratitude. I wish that I could be as good at that as I am at moderating spam comments.