I’ve decided to do something contrary to my nature, as part of my personal recovery from cynicism. I’m going to say five nice things about Tim Tebow’s autobiography that one of my church members gave me to read. I don’t agree with all of Tebow’s theology. His approach to evangelism wouldn’t have gotten a “sinner’s prayer” out of me. But I do think he’s a good guy who’s trying to exploit whatever media attention he gets for the sake of the kingdom. And when I was a young Christian, it was important to have Christian sports heroes like Kevin Johnson and Reggie White who wrote short books in which a fourth grader could find concrete character qualities to emulate. In any case, I wanted to share several Bible verses and quotes that I appreciated from Tebow’s book.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2
Tebow says that when he was a boy, his parents pointed to this verse and forbade him and his brothers from bragging about their sports accomplishments. I think it’s important to remember to separate what Tebow says and does from what his fans say and do. In the ideologically polarized landscape in which we live, it’s easy to superimpose the baggage from the red-state/blue-state battlefield onto Tebow. I know that some of his fans want to make Tebow part of their ideological warfare, but all that I’ve seen Tebow do himself is talk about Jesus whenever a mic gets put in his face, and the stuff I’ve heard him say isn’t all that obnoxious. I have a problem with there being a problem that he prays on the sidelines. Remember that he’s not going in front of the cameras to pray; the cameras are coming to him. If they weren’t there, he would do the same thing.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans an widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27
Tebow’s parents started an orphanage in the Philippines as part of their missionary work there. Throughout the book, Tebow references the Biblical importance of caring for the widows and the orphans. I really appreciated this, as it’s often absent from the radar screens of Christians who share Tebow’s “Four Spiritual Laws” approach to theology. A big part of what Tebow is trying to use his celebrity to accomplish is to get people excited about caring for the widows and orphans. To put it in “class warfare” terms, Tebow has already redistributed a lot of his own wealth as well as those who give money to his foundation.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Tebow quoted this verse when he got interviewed after a disappointing loss. I looked it up and the two verses before it are very short: “Rejoice always” (16) and “Pray continually” (17), which help explain what Tebow thinks he’s supposed to do on the sideline and everywhere else that he goes. So much of our Christian walk is summed up in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It’s about learning to be thankful in all circumstances. And we really can find something to thank God for in every setback that we experience.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
This is the first verse that Tebow wore on his eye-paint in the brief period of time that he was allowed to wear verses on his eye-paint. It really is the perfect verse for inspiring young kids who are watching football. I know that there’s a way to misinterpret this according to our culture of celebrity worship. Not every 10 year old kid can grow up to be a star quarterback if they just “have enough faith” in Christ. But if Christian football fans can keep this verse on the tip of their tongues whenever they face trials and setbacks in life, then it was worth the eye-paint.
I know it sounds dumb to be praying over a football game, but if you’ve ever watched a close football game, then you’ve almost certainly seen one or two guys with their heads bowed during the closing seconds. I’m not sure God is into who wins or loses –He probably is more concerned with what you do in the process and what you will do with either result, to glorify him and change the world by hopefully impacting one life. But since my parents raised me to pray about anything that’s on my heart, I pray–even if some of those things are trivial in the overall scheme of things. 116
This is Tebow’s description of the most controversial thing he does. It seems like his attitude is why should I stop being myself just because there’s a camera on me. I pray about things related to my professional success all the time. I don’t pray that God would make lots of people come to church and put lots of money in the plate or anything like that. But I do pray that nothing about my character would be an obstacle to God accomplishing His purpose through my work and that God would always more perfectly shape me into exactly what He wants me to be. I think it’s reasonable to ask God for focus and trust in the middle of a tense football game; that’s not the same thing as asking God to make the other team drop their passes. Why should you hide this need for prayer from other people just because your “office” is a stadium with a hundred thousand other people and dozens of video cameras trained on you?
I think ultimately it’s our responsibility what we take away from Tim Tebow. There are certainly some obnoxious Christians who have turned our religion into a sports competition in which there’s a team to cheer for and a team to root against. That’s not the way God works. God wants everyone to be on the same team, and if those who know Christ are jeering those who don’t, then we have utterly failed as witnesses. But that’s not Tim Tebow’s failure; its ours.
I like the impact Tebow has had on several people in my church, so I guess that makes me a fan. I like underdogs in sports competitions, so I’ll probably root for him if I happen to watch a pro football game, which I rarely do. Honestly I’m a bigger Michael Vick fan, because of all the people that hated him and the fact that I believe in redemption. Bottom line is if Tebow loses to the Patriots, which will probably happen, that doesn’t mean that Jesus lost. If he wins, it’s not because Jesus picked his team. In either case, I hope that Tebow’s fans will give glory to God’s name in how they respond.