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)

11 thoughts on “A Christian Perspective on Tim Tebow, 316 and the Gospel

  1. This is great, Randy. I have sent the link to your blog to my sons. I know they will appreciate your words, as would, I believe, Tebow!

  2. My dear brother…you nailed it. Very well said. Accurate…biblical…and puts our focus on Jesus. Just as it should be. And just as Tebow would want it himself.

  3. I agree almost 100% with what you have said, and you said it well. There is one counterpoint that I would like to make, however. I agree we must not recklessly attribute outcomes to God. Bad things do happen to faithful followers of Christ, too. However, we must not be blind to His working in the world today. God did not part waters, extend life for fifteen years, make the sun stand still, send down a chariot of fire, give deliverance from furnaces and lions’ dens, etc., for every believer; and, yet, at His discretion He did, on occasion. What I’m trying to say is that we need to be careful to “acknowledge Him in all our ways” as well as try not to go off the deep end assigning Him responsibility for everything that happens. If we wait to praise Him for good things until there is no fear of bad things happening, we will have to save all our praise for heaven. Maybe 316 is NOT just a coincidence. God is, after all, sovereign! Sign from God or not…I LIKE IT!

  4. Linda,

    Thank you for your comment. I think we are probably very close to being on the same page. I certainly understand your concern about people being so careful to avoid wrongly attributing something to God that they never acknowledge His real work in their lives. I am not advocating such an over-protective perspective. Nor am I limiting God’s ability to work today in any way He chooses. The God who did all the things you noted above (parting the waters, extending life, holding the sun, etc.) can certainly still do all of those things today. He is God. He is always the same. He does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). What makes all of the examples you mentioned different, however, is that in all of those cases, God attributed all of those events to Himself. Moses, Hezekiah, Joshua and others did not see these events happening around them and think, “Hmmm, that is interesting. God must have done this.” No, God declared that each of these events was His work to show His glory among the people.

    Again, God is indeed sovereign and can work in any way He chooses – even with regard to orchestrating football statistics. However, to declare that God has done some such thing when God has not clearly said so is not a biblically responsible practice, in my opinion, whether I happen to find the supposed “connection” clever or not.

  5. Yes, I see your point. However, relying solely on that standard, in today’s world we could never attribute anything to God’s power, because nothing SPECIFIC (with names, dates, details provided) that is currently happening is recorded in His Word. This approach seems to preclude that we can never attribute to God anything that happens for which we cannot quote a chapter and verse. What about miraculous healings, the many answered prayers we witness, and the changed lives and circumstances where we see evidence of His presence and power. I’m not really arguing that God orchestrated the 316 thing. We can’t know that. However I am quite sure He can USE it if He chooses, to encourage the saints and get the attention of the skeptics. I do agree it’s unwise to dogmatically claim that God did it, but I think I allow more room for the possibility than perhaps you do. I do believe strongly, as you do, that we should never credit God with anything that His Word clearly indicates would go against the nature of God as revealed to us in scripture. I see nothing in the 316 event that is contrary to the revealed nature and character of God. Thanks for allowing me to “banter” a bit with you on this. God bless and keep up the good work!

    1. Love you my brother (in law) BUT…
      I must say that I align with exactly what Linda stated but couldn’t have explained it that well myself! I enjoyed the “banter” but much like withTebow I found myself cheering for Linda :).

  6. Linda,

    I understand your point. I would certainly be much more willing to attribute an otherwise unexplained physical healing in a missions context to God’s direct intervention than I would a particular number of passing yards by a Christian quarterback in an NFL football game. Is my willingness to acknowledge the former much more quickly than the latter simply inconsistency on my part? Maybe. I am still learning too.

    I appreciate your dialogue here. This kind of grace-filled discussion between brothers and sisters in Christ is not only beneficial to those involved in the discussion but to those who observe the discussion as well. I pray that it has been edifying to all. Thank you for your encouragement. May we all honor Christ in everything we do and say!

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