By Erin Bird
We are in a series here on the blog on “How to Follow Jesus Online.” Our key passage is Philippians 2:12-16a, which says,
Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.
An Online Confession
This past Sunday, I began my message with a confession. Well, I want to confess something else to you.
You know those posts on Facebook that tell you if you love Jesus, you need to share or “Like” their photo and God will bless you? If not, here is an example:
Well, I confess that even though I deeply love Jesus, I never do it. I don’t share. I don’t “Like.” I don’t type “Amen.”
And I don’t think you should either.
What is Sharebait?
Many people call photos and posts that try to guilt you into sharing, liking, or commenting “Sharebait.” They “bait” you into sharing the image. On the surface, it seems like sharing or liking a post is harmless, and even the kind thing to do. But in my opinion, sharing sharebait is actually a very un-Christlike thing to do. Here’s why:
1. IT’S SPIRITUALLY MANIPULATIVE
Whenever we try to influence someone’s behavior through guilt, we are manipulating them. But Jesus never used guilt in his relationships. God doesn’t guilt you into salvation, nor into obeying Him. Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Remember from our key passage above – it is God who works in you, not to guilt you. So whether you type “Amen” or choose to move on to the next post will have no bearing whatsoever on how God sees you.
So don’t feel guilty scrolling past the sharebait. Instead, realize that if actually you share the post, you are allowing yourself to be manipulated in order to manipulate others.
2. IT DISTORTS THE GOSPEL
Yes, I said it: Christian Sharebait distorts the gospel. It makes the gospel appear to be works-driven. Sharebait theology goes like this: “if I share this post or like it, God will approve of me.” But God’s approval of you isn’t based upon anything you do – it’s based upon what Jesus has done and your faith in His sacrifice.
When the gospel gets distorted, it is no longer the good news it is intended to be. By sharing such images, you confuse the theology of your fellow Jesus-followers, and present a twisted view of the gospel to your spiritually disconnected friends. So don’t confuse your Facebook friends with a twisted view of the most important story in the world.
3. IT FEEDS THE MACHINE
Did you know that creating Christian Sharebait (and other sharebait) is actually big business? Here’s how it works:
- The makers of this kind of content are aiming for shares, likes, and comments…
- …which gets more eyes on their content…
- …which leads to more eyes to their website…
- …which leads to more eyes on the ads they sell…
- …which leads to greater profits.
This means most sharebait is not created by some well-meaning-but-naive Christian trying to help their friends share the gospel. It’s created by someone driven by money, someone who is part of the “crooked and perverted generation” that Paul talks about in the key passage above.
I am happy to say that I have yet to see any of my Riverwood family sharing Christian Sharebait. But I still see it from other Facebook friends. That’s why I am writing this, to help you not fall into the same trap and help me change the online culture.
So let’s work together to stop the spread of Sharebait. We can help turn the tide if we will boldly, yet gently proclaim that you can both follow Jesus and not heap social guilt on your network of friends by sharing such content. Let’s be part of the solution. Just say no to Christian Sharebait.