“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth..” (Romans 1:16)
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been one of the hottest topics in sports for the past two months. While leading the Denver Broncos to a 6-1 record since taking over as their starter, Tebow’s unorthodox style of play and string of incredible 4th quarter comeback wins has been debated thousands of times by journalists and broadcast analysts. However, his outspoken faith in Jesus Christ has truly been a lightning rod of controversy. In the book of Acts, disciples of Jesus were accused of “turning the world upside down” with their outspoken faith, and the sports world is now experiencing something similar. Tebow a born again Christian and missionary to the Philippines has not shied away from sharing his love of God and Jesus Christ with reporters and fans alike. And in face of massive criticism, persecution and hatred, he stands tall, leaning on his faith to continue sharing the light of the Gospel and truly being revolutionary in his bold stance for Christianity.
College Phenom – Super Controversy
Tim Tebow exploded onto the national sports radio after a phenomenal sophomore season at the University of Florida that saw him become the first college sophomore to ever win the Heisman trophy (given to the best player in the nation). In addition he won a national championship for the University. By this time Tebow became a legend in football crazy Florida, a media darling and a budding role model for his Christian lifestyle and values. Tebow does not smoke or drink alcohol. He is a virgin. He attends church, worked as a missionary in the Philippines (where he was born – his parents are missionaries) and passionately talks about his belief in Jesus Christ as His Savior. He created an internet frenzy when he started putting Bible verses on the black tape he wore under his eyes on game days. Before the College National Championship game, Tebow put “John 3:16” under his eyes. The next day, over 94 million people looked up the verse on internet search engines. The young man has incredible influence and uses it to promote Jesus Christ.
During his final season in college, Tebow filmed a pro-life commercial with his mother (who faced a decision to abort Tim when doctors feared he may have had severe birth defects) to be aired during the Super Bowl. The backlash and anger about the ad exploded. Despite having not seen it, pro-abortion groups, women’s advocacy groups and many, many people in the media were enraged that the Super Bowl, such a popular TV program was becoming “political” and
“This campaign is about holding CBS and the NFL and the other Super Bowl advertisers accountable,” said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, “for inserting an exceedingly controversial issue into a place where we all hope Americans will be united, not divided, in terms of watching America’s most-watched sporting event.”
“This ad is frankly offensive, ” said Erin Matson, the Action Vice President of the National Organization for Women, speaking of the Tebow commercial. “It is hate masquerading as love. It sends a message that abortion is always a mistake.”
The quarterback had a different take on the issue. “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe,” Tebow said (the ad is below).
The ad aired and turned out not to be he hateful, offensive ad that pro-abortion activists judged it to be and the controversy died almost immediately. The next year’s Super Bowl would see quarterback Ben Roehtlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers play at a time he had come off a 6-game suspension for the second rape allegation made against him in 3 years. Somehow, the level of controversy was nowhere near that of the Tebow commercial. In an age where athletes have become self-centered, egotistical and disrespectful, Tebow promotes, humility, love and faith in God. While even 60-year-old coaches are getting caught up in child molestation scandals and subsequent cover ups (as seen at Penn State and Syracuse University), here is a football player who is building hospitals for poor children and trying to inspire a nation of young kids to live better and choose righteousness over evil.
Now in the NFL, Tebow took over for the Denver Broncos in week 7 of the NFL season as their starting quarterback. His late-game heroics created a media buzz but his outspoken faith led to a firestorm. Tebow prays before and after games on one knee and soon an internet ‘sensation’ called ‘Tebowing’ started in which people posted photos of themselves in mock prayer. As is the case in today’s society, the mocking of Christians, Jesus Christ or the Bible is never seen as “bigoted” and draws no ire. Christians are fair game for all forms of mockery. During a game against the Detroit Lions, linebacker Stephen Tulloch sacked Tebow and then did a mock prayer pose as a celebration. It should be understood that Tulloch has the right to do whatever celebration he sees fit. The NFL is renown for outrageous player celebrations and dances. But would he have been so quick to mock a Jewish or Muslim player? We will explore possible religious bias below.
Through it all Tebow only continues to stand for what he believes in. And continues to talk about Jesus Christ – something that will raise the anger of many. Why is this? Why does talking about Jesus and faith in Him get so many people upset? The Bible of course has the answer:
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21).
The fact of the matter is talking about Jesus and living a Christian life is a reminder to others about their sin. The flesh in our beings brings us into rebellion against God and into denial about our sin. Thus by standing up for holiness and godliness, Tebow serves as a representative and reminder of Jesus and the sin that we all carry in our lives. He is not just talking about Jesus, he is willing to take the intense media scrutiny to show that he is living for God as well. But more importantly, Tebow shares the God will forgive us because of the sacrifice Jesus made by dying for us and taking our sins so that we could be declared righteous before God. It’s the ultimate message of hope. And the reaction of many to Tebow’s constant discussion of Jesus has been clear: many feel he should be silent.
Jake Plummer Takes His Shot
Former Denver Bronco quarterback Jake Plummer spoke to the press about Tebow, criticizing the young man for his continued praise of Jesus Christ. Here is an excellent video that discusses Plummer’s comments and Tebow’s response.
Notice the humility Tebow has in discussing Plummer’s comments. He has no reason to attack Plummer. He merely speaks of his love for Jesus Christ and giving Him his honor and glory. Praise The Lord! What a powerful testimony. This is what the Christian testimony is about. Not being ashamed of Jesus. Tebow also did not try to attribute sports success but rightly says that no matter what happens on the football field, God is in control! Amen. And he credits The Lord for making him a better person and role model for children. This is not easy. How vocal are you in speaking out for your faith? How often do you share with others your love of Jesus Christ? Jesus said: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33). Tebow is taking on a challenge every Christian carries in their lives: we are to proclaim the Gospel and our faith without shame. This does not mean condemning others. It does not mean insulting the beliefs of others. It is merely sharing what we believe as Christians the God that we love and Savior we serve.
Christian Quarterback Kurt Warner: “Stop talking about Jesus”
“Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” (Acts 5:28)
In a very sad turn of events, former NFL quarterback and Christian Kurt Warner, did an interview in which he stated that he thinks Tebow should “tone down” the talk about Jesus Christ:
“You can’t help but cheer for a guy like that,” former NFL star Kurt Warner said. “But I’d tell him, ‘Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you’re living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.’ “I know what he’s going through, and I know what he wants to accomplish, but I don’t want anybody to become calloused toward Tim because they don’t understand him, or are not fully aware of who he is. And you’re starting to see that a little bit.”
Warner was a quarterback in the late 90s and early 2000’s who let the world know about his faith in Jesus. He held Bible studies with his teammates and made sure he thanked Jesus Christ first after winning the Super Bowl. His own accomplishments and willing to display his faith throughout his football career should not be discounted. While Warner may mean well with respect to Tebow, he is misinformed. His concern that some people may not like Tebow for his outspoken faith shows that Warner needs to study His Bible more. Being criticized for faith in Christ is exactly what Jesus says all Christians should expect:
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. (John 15)
The world we presently live in, fallen and sinful is under influence of Satan and his minions. Thus Christians are instructed to be a part of society but not be “of the world”. What this means is that Christian beliefs and faith will not be the same as most of society’s because they are based on faith in Jesus Christ, whom the world rejected. If Jesus was persecuted and hated for His preaching, then all of His servants should expect the same treatment. In short, Jesus is saying that being hated for your faith “comes with the territory” as a believer in Him. Also notice that Jesus points out the reason that He was persecuted: that He was exposing the sins of the world. This is always the underlying issue: people do not want to be reminded about their sin. And discussing Jesus Christ, who had no sin, leads to the backlash.
Instead of trying to silence Tebow, Kurt Warner should be encouraging him. But Warner is clearly being more sympathetic to those who cannot stand to hear about Jesus and would rather appease them, lest their feathers get ruffled. Warner’s response is completely unbiblical and based on his own desires and not God’s. If Jesus Christ was concerned about people possibly getting angry or upset with His message, how could He had ever had a ministry? Would He had ever even started preaching?
And certainly the disciples of Jesus faced the same trials after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to Heaven. In the Book of Acts, the Apostles Peter and John healed a man and started preaching “boldly” that Jesus Christ was the Messiah:
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4)
The same challenge in ancient times is present today. It is acceptable to say you have faith or believe in God, but the mention of the name of Jesus Christ always seems to bring “controversy.” Satan does not want the name of the Savior preached or spoken. Because it is Jesus who is the way to salvation and eternal life. Thus even today, the repeated mention of Jesus will lead to even have Christians try to tell other Christians to “tone it down.” But the fear of being disliked or criticized for faith in Jesus and sharing the Gospel should not stop a Christian in their mission. When the same Apostles were later jailed and again continued to preach, they said: “..We ought to obey God rather than men.” Tebow has provided Christians with a chance to evaluate their faith and see if they are being bold to the point that they would risk criticism for expressing their faith in Christ and love for Him. Whether it is among friends, at social gatherings, at work or in school, Christians always face the challenge of taking on the command of Christ: to preach the Gospel to the nations. Yet, it so easy to brush this aside in social settings where speaking the name of Jesus can run the risk of you seeming odd, crazy or “offensive.” Christian should use this moment for self-reflection: are you willing to endure criticism, taunting or even hatred for speaking about your faith? Are you ashamed of Jesus Christ?
What If Tebow Were Muslim?
In today’s society, where the sensitivity to the Muslim faith is pervasive, one wonders would there be any “controversy” at all if Tebow were Muslim? Would the media criticize him? Would players dare mock a Muslim prayer? Well, we can already see examples of clear bias towards the Muslim religion in high school football. In Westmoreland, Tennessee, High school football coaches who were Christian, were banned from their practice of bowing their heads in silent prayer before games alongside their players. As the report stated:
Word got back to the principal and the school district, which found the coaches’ participation to be an uncomfortable mix of religion and public school.
“We’ve been telling our principals to kind of be looking for those things, because that is kind of a shift in how things have been done,” district spokesman Jeremy Johnson told WSMV. “It can in no way appear like it’s endorsed by Sumner County Schools personnel.”
A similar case occurred in New Brunswick, New Jersey High School football coach Marcus Borden, who is Christian, sued his school district for the right to pray alongside his students before games when they chose to. The school board banned the coach from doing so on the basis of the argument of “separation of church and state”, and that Borden by praying with his students was mixing religion with public school and thus government.
The courts ruled in favor of the school board and Borden appealed all the way to the Supreme Court who refused to hear the case, thus upholding the school board’s decision. Richard Katskee, an attorney with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the board of education in court, said in a prepared statement today “children have a clear right to attend public schools without religious pressures being brought to bear by school personnel.”
“Coach Borden was out of bounds, and the courts were right to blow the whistle,” Katskee said. “I hope that other coaches and school personnel learn a lesson from this.” Todd Simmens, president of the East Brunswick Board of Education, in the same statement said “public school officials simply may not engage with students in religious activity.” “The board of education and district officials have, throughout this case, made certain no school employee supervises or otherwise participates in any type of prayer with our students,” Simmens said. “Needless to say, the board is pleased that, in this case, the courts reaffirmed this long-standing constitutional principle.”
Such strong reaction against any form of Christianity on the football field. Yet how interesting it is to see that in Michigan, some public High School football teams are not only adjusting their schedule for Muslim students, they are even holding their practices past midnight just to do so. ESPN reported on Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan:
“A Michigan high school football team is holding preseason practices in the middle of the night to help its Muslim players practice both faith and football. The predominantly Muslim squad from Dearborn says the nocturnal regimen is a way for players to eat and drink while observing the holy month of daytime fasting known as Ramadan that started last week. The August heat also played a factor in Fordson High coach Fouad Zaban’s proposal to reverse the clock for a week of two-a-day practices. Cutting practice wasn’t an option at football-crazy Fordson, which is coming off a one-loss season and has won four state titles and three runner-up seasons since it was established in 1928. But nobody wanted to lessen the significance of Ramadan in the Detroit suburb widely known as the capital of Arab-America. The moonlight practice is tailored for Adnan Restum and fellow Muslim teammates.” (source)
A Christian coach cannot even bow his head before a game, but a Muslim coach can have his entire team switch their practices from 11:00 PM – 3:00 AM (with no mention of the strain put on students who are playing football until 3:00 AM every night and are supposed to be productive students). Public High School officials are worried about a “mix of religion” but tailors its schedule specifically for Muslim students. Is this bias in favor of Islam and against Christianity? If so, again, it would be just what the Bible prophesied would take place.
Faith on the Field: Is God Helping Tebow Win?
The lot is cast into the lap; but its every decision is of the LORD. — Proverbs 16:33
.In much of the criticism of Tebow, there is the constant question about God “helping” athletes win over other athletes. One article stated the question succinctly:
“I’m not a big fan of religious exhibitions in public venues. I’m not opposed to them, I’m not critical of seeing a prayer circle after a game, or a player thanking God for divine intervention. That’s what the player wants to believe? Fine. My issue is really one that relates to this – if God is helping the winning team, then what’s He doing for the losing team? Are they just not strong enough believers? Did they not say the right prayers or did they not make the correct sacrifices? It’s not really a strong argument to say “God allowed/helped me to win” because it presumes God didn’t allow or help those on the losing side.” (source)
What this writer and many overlook is that in the Christian life, victory is not worldly success. Victory is eternal life. As Tebow stated in the interview above, if all his life is about is winning football games then that’s not much of a life at all. Christian athletes thank God for wins because the Lord willed that they be victorious on the field that day. As the verse from Proverbs states above, even when lots were casted in ancient times (a kind of form of drawing straws to make a decision) God was at work in its out come. This does not mean that Christians can assume God wants them to win a sports game. Maybe God’s will is not only to lose, but to retire from professional football altogether to serve the Lord full-time (as was the case with NFL star running back Napoleon Kaufman). This is what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is about. So just because an athlete is Christian and loses a game, does not mean God was not with them or that God favored someone else. It means that this was a day that they lost a game. But their faith remains strong in The Lord through any Earthly trial.
Through The Eyes of Tebow
Tim Tebow’s autobiography, “Through My Eyes” tells the journey from his mother’s decision to not have an abortion and give birth to him against doctor’s advisement, to his childhood in the Philippines, all the way through his making it to the NFL. All the while he discusses the pressures and criticisms he faced but got through it all through his faith in God and Jesus Christ. Each chapter opens with a Bible verse that has inspired Tebow. With respect to his faith he wrote: “I’m pressing on toward the upward call of Christ Jesus, seeking to continue living in the way that always brings glory to Him… I hope it’s on the football field, at least for now. But I know that He knows my platform and holds my future in His hands.”
Tebow stated he enjoyed finally being able to tell his story and his views from his own perspective. But every week on national television, he has a chance to let his life be his testimony for all to see. Many Christians are inspired by Tebow consistent commitment to proclaiming the name of Jesus and Christian living. What he is doing this season is truly revolutionary. Pray for Tebow to stay strong in his faith and safe on the field. It is not clear what the Broncos’ plans are for the future with the quarterback position. Team Executive and Bronco legend John Elway has already made it clear he is scouting college quarterbacks for a challenger or replacement for Tebow next season. Maybe Tebow will not be a starter next year. Maybe he will be traded. But either way, pray that he continues to look to God to sustain and provide for Him through all these challenges. And that this miraculous season continues to turn the sports world upside down as he glorifies the name of Jesus Christ.