Just what you have been waiting for: a few more thoughts on Tim Tebow

January 18, 2012

While there is probably some sense of urgency to get a few thoughts on the record about Tim Tebow before all the talk turns to something else, you can probably presume that the Broncos play caller will be on the “A-list” of popular conversation for a while. Tebow probably gets more attention than is good for his soul.

A lot of what is reported concerning this special young athlete is probably accurate and as on target, as might be expected from secular journalists. So far as I am concerned, Tim Tebow deliberately attracts attention as a method of spreading the Gospel. Whether or not his strategy is sound will have to wait for another day.

It is probably enough to say that he is the real deal, sincere, and properly motivated. Back when he played college ball in Florida, ESPN College Game Day did more than one profile of the young man and his missionary family. Now that he is a pro, and still a public followers of Jesus Christ, Tebow still gets lots of ink. One reason for the extended coverage is the well established media “death watch.” Seasoned journalists know that every human being has a weakness so they are cheerfully building up this most influential role model anxiously awaiting the day that he slips up and shows the human side, falls from grace, and is scourged through the streets. As a semi-retired member of the fourth estate, let me attest that we are a bloodthirsty bunch that loves nothing better than a good scourging (so long as it is not administered to one of our own).

While Denver quarterback Tim Tebow seems to be entirely transparent, and parents feel very comfortable placing him as somebody that children should emulate,  the sad truth is that the reporters are right. Every human celebrity lets you down sooner or later. Christians know that we are all fallen beings in need of a Savior. The press wants to cook up a fictitious personality for popular adoration. Athletes, being generally more attractive and physically capable than the rest of us, are easy targets for the huge grinder of public opinion.

It is somewhat similar with politicians, which is very mysterious when you think of it. How can anybody in their right mind make a moral leader out of someone who regularly shades the truth as part of doing business? But we do it all the time.

Tim Tebow is probably a really good guy and parents should emphasize his good qualities, but there is another way to look at the role model issue. The real role models are the Matthew 25 Christians. When Jesus describes the final judgment, he is very clear about the kind of behavior that deserves eternal reward.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35-36 ESV).

That sounds like a bunch of do-goods. Giving, welcoming, clothing, and visiting are hallmarks of virtuous living. Ayan Rand would not be pleased with such mindless altruism. What Christ proposes has to do with the physical requirements of everyday people in trouble, and he goes overboard to personally identify with the down-and-out.  It suggests a personal awareness of the needs of less fortunate, and that gets some emphasis in the section of the judgment addressed to those who never saw Jesus in the needy. That is why admiring Tim Tebow is simply not enough. The real role models are willing to be inconvenienced by the seemingly meaningless lives of the suffering. Those do-gooders (of which I am not necessarily one) are taking a risk by stepping out of the safe situations of the fortunate and confronting unpleasantness face-to-face.

Because Christians have been called by God and have heard the Gospel, it is very important that we directly take on social evils like hunger, illness, poverty and crime. Jesus is very clear and there is no reason to be surprised about the things that will come up on Judgment Day. These are concerns that come into our world because of is usually called “the fall” (Gen 3) and man’s rebellious nature. Now that Christ is in the world, things are changing. We are part of the change when the hungry are fed, the sick are comforted, and criminals hear the Good News. After all, most of us are little better than the folks behind bars.

Tebow seems to have been doing his part. That leaves the questions of what the rest of us ought to be doing. It really comes down to this; what good is taking a knee if it is not backed up by concrete acts of generosity?


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