Tim Tebow, Jesus jerseys and faith in the media spotlight

Tim Tebow is polarizing in the sports world. It seems almost everyone has an opinion about the college football superstar turned Denver Broncos quarterback. For some, it’s an issue of how his public faith meshes with sports. For others, it’s the disbelief that he’s a starting NFL quarterback who has a hard time throwing the ball. Regardless, as a Christian (and die-hard Broncos fan) I can’t help but root for him. Here’s why: Tebow gives a great example of how Christians should react when people are being critical of them for their faith.

The issue seems to be in the forefront of talk radio and newspaper sports pages again thanks to some fans who’ve put the name Jesus on the back of their replica Tebow jerseys. While the Broncos don’t specifically sell the jerseys in their stadium store, some have been critical of the jerseys saying they’ve crossed the line of idolatry. Comparing Tebow to Jesus in such a tangible way, even though media outlets around the country have been doing so in headlines for weeks, makes some folks uneasy.

The issue of idolatry is a real one and probably a discussion for another day. What impresses me most is how Tebow reacts to questions about his faith. When asked about the Jesus jersey, Tebow told the Denver Post:

“I don't know what to think about that because I don't know where people's hearts are. It's important to not judge without knowing their hearts. If their heart is to honor the Lord, then it's a good thing. Only God can judge because only God knows what's truly in a person's heart."

And that type of reply isn’t uncommon for Tebow. He’s said he believes the Bible calls him to be open about living his faith, but not forcing it on others. When his open faith, including taking a knee to pray, became a craze known as “Tebowing,” he again used it as an opportunity to share his beliefs. He told the Denver Post:

"It's not my job to see peoples' reasons behind it, but I know (of a kid) with cancer that tweeted me, 'Tebowing while I'm chemoing' — how cool is that? That's worth it right now. If that gives him any encouragement or puts a smile on his face, or gives him encouragement to pray, that's completely awesome. It is serious, for me. At least it's being talked about, and that's a cool thing. If I can help be an example of that, then I look at that as a blessing."

How many of us would act with the same grace if we were under scrutiny or being mocked for our faith? How quickly would we be jumping to judge people for their motives? How often would we go on the defensive instead of using it as a chance to share God’s story?

Tim Tebow is a good guy and a committed Christian. While I think his faith shouldn’t be the fodder of sports talk radio, I do admire the way he reacts to it. And for that reason alone, I root for his success in the NFL. I’m always for someone who’s not judging others, but living out their faith by example.

Jerod Clark is the project leader for Church Juice, which helps train and consult with churches on how to use media better as an outreach tool. Read more at the Church Juice blog. / Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons.

Comments (6)

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Hey if we can have Team Edward and Team Jacob shirts walking around, Isn't is time for 'TEAM JESUS' - Cool I Like it!

BTW 5 is the Biblical number for grace and 3 for divinity so 15 is the biblical number for Divine Grace.
yea, good stuff.  can't believe they beat the Jets last night.  another heroic come back for Tebow.  And he keeps giving Jesus credit, which is pretty cool.
Hopefully Tim Tebow can find a passing arm like John Elway's---he was known to run with authority as well.  Elway, #7, the number of perfection. . . .
There is no question that Tebow is a polarizing figure. What's interesting to me is that for every Christian who adores him, there are other Christians who dislike him. I'd be interested in hearing why people think this is so. I asked this question of a friend who both lives in Colorado and is a pastor.  His explanation was that it relates to Tebow's style of play.  Given both Tebow's inability to pass the football accurately and his tremendous size, he runs much more than most quarterbacks and often runs over people.  My friend felt it was the connection of Tebow's physical, almost militant style of play with his demonstrative shows of prayer that many find off-putting, a sort of "muscular Christianity" that seems to take delight in smiting one's enemies.  I am wondering what others think.
As a Christian who is certainly not counted in the "pro-Tebow" camp, I'll offer my 2 cents.

My "dislike" of Tebow has very little to do with Tebow himself. It's more about the hero-worship that surrounds him. Tim Tebow is a gifted athlete who accomplished great things in college. However, because of his public displays of faith, his achievements were magnified by an adoring group of Christians searching for... well, I'm not sure what.

Now, it's quite clear that Tebow, while gifted as an athlete, is not an NFL-caliber quarterback. He certainly has the athletic ability to hold his own on a football field, and I believe he'll have a long and successful career (at some position). He's a great leader and a charismatic personality. I applaud his competitive fire and his ability not to take himself too seriously. However, the over-the-top outcry from Tebow's fans demanding that Denver make him the starting QB, despite overwhelming evidence that he was not good enough, really soured me.

I also cannot stand the collective sense of martyrism Tebow's Christian fans have demonstrated. No one can criticize Tebow for anything (including his play) without thousands jumping to his defense and claiming that the critic has an anti-Christian bias. This is absurd and embarrassing to me as a Christian.

I grew up as a fan of the Green Bay Packers, and my favorite player was Reggie White. Like Tebow, he was very outspoken about his Christian faith, and was equally demonstrative on the field. He even served as the pastor of a church. His nickname was The Minister of Defense. But there was no cult-like following. No angry Christian mob protecting him from any criticism. Why? Shouldn't this anti-Christian bias have applied to him, too?

Maybe it's a new bias, then. However, I would venture a guess that more than 50% of the players in the NFL call themselves Christians. Many of those players pray on the field, like Tebow does. If there is really such an anti-Christian bias in the NFL, why aren't these players victims of it, like Tebow (supposedly) is?
As a career h.s. coach and teacher, I enjoyed coaching/teaching multi-faceted young people. I appreciate that Tebow runs, in that I like the h.s./college stronger emphasis on the running game, with a QB who not only runs but who blocks upfield (and who makes tackles after throwing interceptions).  I do believe though, that Tebow is going to have his head handed to him if he runs too much as a QB in the NFL. I just don't get all the projection of a Christian hero for the NFL, but I don't think that is of Tebow's making.

 

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