A Christian Perspective on Tim Tebow, 316 and the Gospel
To say that there has been much hype – both positive and negative – about Tim Tebow, his football abilities, and his faith as a Christian would be an obvious understatement. After last night’s game, however, the volume of the hype reached a new level. According to an article in Time’s News Feed, the internet “verily exploded” when the statistics from the game were released. Why all the extra hype? The statistics showed that Tebow had passed for 316 yards, and an NFL playoff record average of 31.6 yards per pass. So, the internet “exploded” as people proclaimed a divine stamp-of-approval, if not a divine intervention, on Tebow’s performance in the game – referencing the similarity between Tebow’s stats numbers and John 3:16. Is such a perspective justified?
Let me answer by asking a few questions. Have previous Christian quarterbacks not walked “faithfully enough” with Christ, or been vocal enough about Him, to see divine intervention in their playing performances? Does faithfully walking with Christ, and being vocal about that walk, always ensure success on the field…or in the home, the workplace, etc.? Is classifying the 316 yards passing as a divine stamp-of-approval (or even signature) not similar to claiming that every bad thing that happens is because “the devil did it?”
Now that I have summarily taken a chainsaw to a hornet’s nest, let me make clear both what I am, and am not, saying. First, I am NOT saying that God is not pouring out His blessing on Tebow’s faithfulness and obedience. It is clear in Scripture that as a general rule, obedience receives blessing and disobedience receives judgment. We also see, however, that that is not always meted out with tangible rewards for temporal circumstances (just read Job). Second, I am not saying that we shouldn’t applaud Tebow’s success as a Christian quarterback. We should rejoice with our brother in this process. What I am concerned about, however, is the seeming attitude of “Haha, you naysayers! Christians can be better athletes because we have God on our side” attitude that has surfaced during this process.
What I am calling for is a biblically-informed, Gospel-centered response to all of this. So, what does a biblical, Christlike response to Tebow-mania look like? We can affirm the following:
1) Tim Tebow is seeking to use the gifts and abilities God has given him as a platform to show and to share the love and glory of Christ with others. Tebow will tell you that, for him, football is not the most important factor. If he wins, fine. If he loses, ok. He simply wants to glorify Christ in the process. That should be the goal of every believer’s life (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).
2) Because Tim Tebow takes a clear stand for Christ in the world, he shouldn’t be surprised that people are rising up against him, and neither should we. Jesus warned His followers from the beginning that taking a stand with Him would bring opposition from the world (Matt. 10:22; 24:9; John 15:18; 16:33). So, the question is, when opposition comes against Christians for being Christians, will we show the grace and love of Christ to the lost people who are acting lost, or will we rather act like them through the vitriolic responses we offer in return. Tebow isn’t lashing out at his naysayers, and neither should we. Why? Because Jesus didn’t lash out at His naysayers, even those hurling insults at Him from the cross. He prayed for them.
3) We should directly attribute to God only those things which God directly attributes to Himself. In other words, we should no more attribute to “divine intervention” the number of yards passing in an NFL game, than we would attribute Tebow having a terrible game to a direct Satanic attack. This kind of “Angels in the Outfield” perspective is unhelpful at best and unbiblical at worst. If people who don’t know Christ are going to reject the Gospel, let them reject a clear biblical Gospel, rather than a superstitious, mystical caricature of one demonstrated by well-meaning but biblically-inaccurate believers. Does this mean that God is unconcerned about the small details of our lives? No. But, it does mean that we must be careful not to sign His name to anything that He has not signed Himself. And, His revelation of Himself in His Word is all we have in that category.
So what is the point of all of this? Be like Tebow? Certainly not! The bottom line? Be like Christ! Jesus Christ lived every aspect of His life for the glory of His Father. He consistently called people to come to God through Him. Though He consistently drew harsh responses from others for His faithful proclamation of God’s Word and His commitment to God’s will, He did not return responses in kind, but rather showed compassion and grace to those who reviled Him. And, the good news of the Gospel is that through Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, bodily resurrection, and giving of His Holy Spirit, you can live this kind of life – by His grace and for His glory – by faith, empowered by His Spirit.
Most likely you are not an NFL quarterback. You don’t need to be. The question is, (regardless of the particular platform that God has given you – at home, at the post office, at your business, at your place of recreation, etc.) are you sharing your faith, and showing your faith, for God’s glory? Tim Tebow is not the big deal. The big deal is Jesus Christ. As we acknowledge Tebow’s accomplishments, let us, like Tebow himself, make much of Tebow’s (and our) Savior!
What are your thoughts about how Christians should respond to all of this? I would be interested to read your comments below.
(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall on Flickr)