Friday, December 2, 2011

Tim Tebow Uses Words At All Times Because They're Necessary

I like me some Kurt Warner (as a person -- my football loyalties always laid elsewhere, esp. when he and his Rams devastated my Titans in the Super Bowl), but I didn't like his recent advice to Tim Tebow:
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."
The idea behind this and other counsel to young master Tebow to lighten up on the Jesus talk is that talking about Jesus turns people off, so one should just be a good person instead. I've now seen both Christians and non-Christians suggest this approach.

There are a few problems with this advice:
1. It assumes Tim isn't already "being a good person."
2. It assumes one can simply imply the gospel with actions and it be understood.
3. It assumes that the gospel isn't offensive, really, but is made so through verbalizing it too much.

All of those assumptions are incorrect. Clearly for Tebow (who I respect and appreciate as a person -- my football loyalties lay elsewhere :-) which is a good thing since even though "he just wins," he's not a very good quarterback (yet?)) speaking the gospel and demonstrating its implications is not an either/or proposition. He rightly understands you cannot do one without the other.

I listened to a guest on Jim Rome's ESPN2 show yesterday say Tebow would commend his message more if he stopped talking about it and simply became a good football player. What all these folks appear to be saying is this: "Tebow turns people off by talking about his message so much." But what my ears hear is this: "Tebow's message makes me really uncomfortable and I don't like it, so I wish he'd just shut up and 'be nice'."

In fact, the Rome guest used the words "shoving it in our face," which is what offended parties often say about people who actually don't shove anything in anybody's face but merely talk most about what's most important to them. Last I heard, Tebow was not randomly showing up at people's homes and workplaces and cornering them with an evangelistic appeal. People are asking him questions, requesting interviews, wanting to hear what he has to say. And what Tebow has to say is directly influenced by the most direct influence on his life. Shouldn't this be true of everyone who claims Christ saved them?

What most of us seem ill-equipped to understand is a public figure so enamored with the love of Jesus he won't shut up about it. May his tribe increase, I say.

Tebow is apparently not the kind of star interested in paying Jesus some lip service when he wins a game or award. He's apparently a guy whose mouth is connected to the overflow of his heart.

The truth is that the gospel is a scandal. I wish brothers like Kurt Warner would factor that into their consideration. That people are blanching at Tebow's Christ-centered words is not because Tebow is offensive but because Christ is.

The truth is that faith comes by hearing, not by deducing through comfortable apprehension of good deeds. An implied gospel is a gospel fail.

(Oh, and that quote often attributed to St. Francis -- "Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary use words"? Yeah, he didn't say that. Or believe it.)


jbboren said...

Outstanding analysis, particularly the, 'in your face' part.

(NB: your word verification isn't showing up for submitting comments...I'll have to use the 'handicapped' method)

Ryan Phelps said...

Dude, yes. I didn't like Warner's comments either. Thanks for putting it into words for me.

What gets me also about all this "shut up and play talk" is that they're asking Tim to do what they won't do themselves. In other words, they're asking him to take on their own narrow worldview. Namely, that one shouldn't talk openly about religion. Why, in other words, is it ok to speak as though there is no God, but not ok to speak as though there is?

Pete Scribner said...

I, like you, am not a huge fan of Tebow as a quarterback. Furthermore, while I gladly count him as my brother in Christ, it is my suspicion that we wouldn't have to dig too deeply before we started unearthing some fairly significant theological differences. Beyond this, Kurt Warner is (and forever will be) my all-time favorite NFL player.

All this said, I agree with your comments 100%. Kudos to Tebow for actually following through on the logical implications of what he says he believes.

Lawrence Brothers said...

Jared... While I agree with you that the gospel must be expressed in words, my problem with brother Tim is that what he is saying, in both word and action, is not the gospel. What he is saying is " God is glorified if we win... When we lose? Not so much". Notice there is no "I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for that interception I threw in the third quarter", even though you and I both know that God is most (or at least equally) glorified in our weakness/losses. My Christian heroes are those who bend the knee when the camera is not around and who take hits everyday for "the team" without the slightest notion that Gods worth and worthiness is in any way tied to their success or lack thereof.

Nick said...

This is one of those rare articles that makes me feel angry in the right way.

Good job, Jared.

I needed someone to slap me out of my secularism and into "Gospel Wakefulness".

Callie said...

I disagree with your assertion that people experience Tim Tebow as offensive because of his Gospel message. I am a believer, and I find Tebow odious because he comes across as arrogant, smug and sure he has the answers. I am offended that he puts the name of Jesus on that behavior and it makes me not want to identify myself as a Christian.

In the Scriptures, the Gospel is offensive not to the unsaved miscreants, but to the religious leaders. It was the moralizing religious right who stumbled over the Cornerstone and they were the ones Jesus called out over and over again. The Gospel is offensive to the moral majority; Tim Tebow is offensive to the rest of us.

The radicalness of Jesus' message is his ultimate humility. He, the God of the whole universe, came to us in a form we could recognize. He came to experience the pain of life on this earth so he could identify with us in our brokenness and sorrow. He sacrificed himself so that we could be freed from death. We are called to the same. I do not experience Tebow as humble and broken like his God was and I believe that his message cheapens the enormity of the true Gospel.