Before I discuss the current media infatuation over Tim Tebow (which made this week’s TIME magazine) a confession is in order. I am a lifelong, biscuit eating, sweet tea loving, Georgia Bulldog fan. In case anyone would doubt my dedication to the red and black I have the signatures of Vince Dooley and Mark Richt on a football as validation. When Tim Tebow played QB for the Florida Gators I appreciated him as a brother in Christ, but only because I had to do so Biblically. I will confess that when UGA beat Florida and it made Tebow cry, I laughed. My confession may seem odd to some, but such is the nature of SEC football. If you do not live in the South you cannot possibly appreciate the culture. If you do, you know that it could be worse.
When it comes to NFL playoff football, if the Falcons are not a factor (and they rarely are), I enjoy watching the traditional teams go deep. This means that for the most part I would like to see the Bears or Packers and the Steelers or Jets in the Super Bowl every year. Yet on Sunday while watching the Steelers and the Broncos I was torn. I would have been glad to see the Steelers advance, but I also wanted to see Tebow win. Why?
As much as I enjoy playoff football, I find greater amusement in watching the secular and supposedly unbiased media become confused, stumble over their contradictions, and expose their hypocrisy. The beauty of Tebow is that if the conversation could be kept to simple QB mechanics the media fumbling is amusing enough. Tebow throws the football like it’s a hand grenade. The talking heads of the football pantheon hate it, but Tebow wins. Tim Tebow is the only QB in NFL history who can complete two passes for over 316 yards and win the game. Statistically he is a nightmare, yet in the end only one stat counts in the NFL, “w’s.” Just win baby.
The gravy on the situation is that with Tebow it is impossible to only talk football with him. Tebow has demonstrated that one can make life (which may involve football, medicine, politics, broadcasting, or being a mechanic) and faith a singular issue. In so doing Tebow has reminded the church that in the gospel our identity is in Christ. There is no way to separate a saved man from his Savior. For the secularized and professedly unbiased media, Tebow’s union with Christ has made the man even more difficult for them to talk about. For a man who throws the football like a hand grenade, with Bible verses under his eyes, who goes on mission trips in the off season, who prays on the side lines – for him to win is indeed supernatural. The unspoken doctrine of ESPN is that Christians can’t win – they are boring prudes. Mechanically Tebow shouldn’t win. He is all wrong. The mixture has forced them to ask an interesting question – are we witnessing a miracle? Is there something supernatural about Tim Tebow?
What is happening with the media is that their hypocrisy with Tebow is apparent. They want the guy to fail as a quarterback and as a man. They want Tebow to be a fake for two reasons. 1) The way he throws the ball shouldn’t work. 2) What Tebow says and the way he lives is unselfish, self sacrificing, and convicting. Tebow is salt and light. Jesus made it clear, someone who comes into an otherwise dark world and redemptively challenges its flavor will not be welcomed. Because Tebow is doing what every person who professes Christ should do whether they are a concert pianist, a beautician, or a dude on an 0 and 12 water polo team, he makes everyone around him think of Christ. His faith cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:16). If they criticize Tebow, they get Christ. If Tebow wins, Christ. If Tebow loses, Christ. If Tebow lives, Christ. If Tebow dies, Christ (Phil. 1:21). Every follower of Christ should be the same thing whatever the context. The difference with Tebow is that he has a huge stage because he plays football; and wins. His life is more public and so when the result of the cross of Christ in Tebow confuses the “wise” and becomes folly to the perishing – we get to see the gospel do what it does on a national broadcast (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Football has given Tim Tebow an incredible platform that has exposed scores of people to the gospel. Though the conversations may begin with football, in the end, football has little to nothing to do with who Tim Tebow is. He is not a miracle worker. He is a guy making a living and being what he is supposed to be – a man who cannot be separated from who he is in Christ. Because of this the media stumbles and fumbles to talk Tebow without talking Christ – but they can’t. This is why they can’t describe the obvious – the guy is not Tebowing any more than Paul was “Paul-ing” or Moses was “Mos-ing.” The dude is praying, glorifying God, living for Christ, and playing football.
Sadly the hypocrisy does not only exist with the media, but in the church. Because American Christianity practices such a nominal form of faith we sound like bumbling idiots when we try to talk sports and God. Why do we root for Tebow? Is it to prove that God helps us win? Before we create an argument we cannot sustain, let’s be careful to be logical and Biblical. The Bible does give us stories of people like Joseph who God prospers in whatever they set their hands to do (Gen. 39:5). A central story of the Old Testament is the crazy good slingshot skills of David vs. Goliath – which became in the end God vs. a devilish giant. The Biblical accounts of Joseph and David make it seem that had these men played QB they too would throw the pigskin like a hand grenade and win. Yet the Bible also says that godless, immoral people will prosper (Psalm 73). Some of the NFL’s greatest players have been humanity’s worst people. Great linebackers and coaches can be horrible husbands and fathers. They may tackle like trucks but they are not good men. So the logical, Biblical message for the nominal church is this, be careful to call Tebow a miracle. Be careful to attribute the perfect landing of his oddly thrown football to some sort of supernatural manifestation of God. Let’s remember, football is a team game. Tebow may be throwing the ball to a Muslim with great hands. He may have gotten the opportunity to score because a wife beating defensive lineman picked up a fumble on the previous series. The wide receivers who take Tebow’s passes to the end zone may be outrunning defensive backs who lead the opposing team’s Sunday morning devotion. Tebow may have other team mates who are great Christians who score touchdowns and pray who have been with Denver for several years. If you follow Denver then you should know, over the last few years it would seem that their prayers were ignored. If we pin all Tim does with the pigskin on God helping him win, the whole thing unwinds both biblically and logically. Let’s be careful.
Where the novice church has gone wrong is in thinking that the only purpose of the gospel is to help us win games, make money, be great. We believe faith means we do not need skill, we just need to win to prove our point. But this is not the message of the gospel at all. The message of the gospel is not in what we are promised to accomplish in Christ, but in who we are destined to become in Christ. What is happening with Tim Tebow is what should be happening with all of us who profess Christ.
We should not even be deceived into thinking that at the core of it all Tebow’s success proves that God cares about football. Tonight LSU will play BAMA for a national championship. Scores of nominal Christians will pray about the game as if God cares who wins. Crimson will not only play against purple and gold, but they will also pray against them. Yet, when Jerry Jones cuts a whole in the top of the dome in Dallas so “God can watch His team play” they will call him a blasphemer and an idolater. Let’s be careful dear hypocrite.
We have forgotten that we do not follow Christ or pray so that God can help us win games. We follow Christ because we want to be like Him. What Tebow is doing is not supernatural, in fact it is rather natural. Tebow is simply being what he is in Christ. The reason we are all talking about it is because the media nor the church has seen a man like this in quite some time, a man brings every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Tebow is not supernatural. In an increasingly secularized world and an apostate church, Tebow is simply abnormal. All he is a physically gifted male whose size, strength, character, never give up attitude, and ability to win games has given him a Heisman and a chance to play in the NFL. Horrible men have done the same thing. The difference with Tim Tebow is that he is not ashamed of who he is in Christ. He just happens to be a great football player. What is supernatural about Tebow is not how he wins games. What is supernatural is what he has become in Christ.
We all have the same opportunity.
Did God help Tebow throw an 80 yard pass to end Pittsburg’s chance to advance in one play in overtime? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask God. What I saw was a good play call for the offense and a bad calculation by the defense. They thought Tebow would run, but he threw a hand grenade. Another guy caught it, and because he has was as fast as lightening and lifted weights in the off season he was able to stiff arm a defender and take the ball to the end zone. It happens every Sunday, even for pagan people. And that’s the point. Life happens. Yet what the gospel calls us to do is to be Christ in life, on any stage, at every stage no matter how big or small. Whether it is nationally broadcasted, whether you win or lose, whether you cut hair or win the Heisman, every thought is to become captive to Christ. Tim is not “Tebowing” as if he is creating something different any more than Paul was “Pauling” or Moses was “Mosing.” Tim is simply being Christ where he is. We are called to do the same.