Does Christianity Have A Place In Professional Football?
It’s another Sunday in the National Football League. With just over a minute left in the game, the home team is down by three points. The ball is on the 20-yard line. 60 feet from the goal line. 60 feet from victory and glory. At this point, most coaches wouldn’t call for the quarterback to take off running with the football. Quarterbacks, after all, are hired to throw the football, not scramble around with it. Then again, most quarterbacks don’t have the ability to weave through an entire defense and cross the goal line almost untouched to score the winning touchdown.
But that’s exactly what this quarterback does.
So how does this quarterback celebrate his game-winning scamper? We might assume that he, like many NFL players, would do some ridiculous dance, thump his chest, or yell obscenities at the defenders he just ran around.
But most NFL players aren’t this quarterback. This quarterback, after being mobbed by his teammates, points two fingers to the sky and drops to one knee to say a prayer. In a league filled with egotism and celebrations of selfish pride, this man credits all of his abilities to God.
Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos is often criticized and rarely praised. Is it because of his unorthodox throwing motion? Because he runs too much and throws too little? No, it is none of those things.
Tim Tebow is criticized because he is a born-again Christian and not afraid to talk about it. People are quick to say that Christianity doesn’t belong in the NFL. People are quick to say that his faith flows out of his football, and the two should be separated. People say God doesn’t care about sports, and to believe that He does is ludicrous.
I believe that people are wrong on all these points. To me, Tebow’s faith doesn’t flow out of his football. It is precisely the other way around. His football flows out of his faith. Tim Tebow is a Christian first and a football player second (or maybe even third). The two cannot–and should not–be separated. Christians aren’t called to only talk about God or “act” like Christians within the four walls of a church on Sunday. Christians are called to take their faith wherever they go, because it is who they are. Notice I didn’t say “a part of” who they are. There is no “part” about it, it is everything.
Do I believe that God cares about sports? Yes, I believe that God cares about everything that His children do, especially when they use what they do to show Him to other people. If God wants Tebow to have a good game, he will have a good game. If God decides Tebow will have a bad game, then he will. And unfortunately, that’s when we start hearing the “Where is your Savior, now?” crowd. Well, He is right where He has always been. Everywhere. Including right there with Tebow. The fact that people would use a loss or a bad game as “evidence” that God doesn’t exist, or that God doesn’t care about Tebow anymore, speaks volumes about us as a society.
The Bible points to the fact that God promises adversity in our lives. It is through the toughest times that we learn to listen more intently to Him. He uses those times in our lives to show Himself to us, and uses us to show Him to others. If you believe the words in the Bible, you believe that God will never leave you nor forsake you. Even if Tebow goes 0-for-50, gets intercepted 10 times, and loses 70-to-0, God is with him. After a performance like that, Tebow will still credit his Savior, because Tebow understands how God works. It is not always sunshine, puppy dogs, and touchdowns. Sometimes there are clouds, monsters, and interceptions. Which means more? When Tebow praises God after a stellar performance and a win, or after a horrific game and a loss? We cannot expect Tebow to flourish all the time. In fact, God’s words and actions will speak louder when he doesn’t.
Some non-believers may wonder why God would choose such a seemingly inept football player to use for His glory. He brings the ball too low and takes too long to release his throws. He abandons pass plays too quickly in favor of the run. His accuracy has issues. Wouldn’t it be better to use a prototypical quarterback? Someone with perfect footwork, a great throwing motion, and tight spirals?
Not necessarily. Consider those God has historically used to lead people. He uses the weak to lead the strong. He uses the humble to lead the proud. When God called Moses to lead His people, Moses basically responded with, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I’m not a very good public speaker. Maybe you should use my brother. He is a much better choice.”
Too bad, because God still used Moses. The Lord chose a lowly fisherman and a tax collector to be by His side. Why, then, can’t He use a quarterback with a jacked-up throwing motion to represent Him in professional football? God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” That is why Tebow cannot “tone it down,” as other players (including fellow Christians) would have him do.
No matter how you slice it, given his media attention, Tim Tebow is pretty darn important right now. Everyone has an opinion on Tebow. Countless articles have been written, interviews conducted, and things said. Our words about Tim Tebow say far more about us than they do about him. Some people want to see Tebow fail simply because he is a Christian. Because he makes them uncomfortable. Because he makes them think about God and a Savior and Heaven and a multitude of other things that they want to ignore.
But that’s why I want him to win. Why are we so quick to hate a man who is an actual role model? He praises his Savior, family, and teammates. He does not exalt himself. The man is humble in a world where we tell athletes they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. He has done some great things on the football field, yet knows it is not about him. He lives that out on a daily basis. Tim Tebow’s life, on the field and off, is not about Tim Tebow.
He plays the game the way that God has created him to play it, unorthodox as it may be. I sincerely hope he continues to succeed. I hope this is a new era in football and the sporting world in general. I hope the system they have set up in Denver continues to work.
Whether or not you share my beliefs, I hope we all, in one way or another, get Tebowed.
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