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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  • Thanks for posting this, Jon. I have to admit that I’ve used the, “So if he loses, does that mean God wanted him to lose?” argument myself, so I’m glad to have this clarified.

  • Nice post. Although I am a Christian, I have not thought much about Tebow beyond, “that’s cool. I wonder if it’s rough on him [to be such a prominent Christian].” I think your post does a good job of getting to the point without being preachy or blind. What do you our society’s reaction to Tebow says about it? Beyond that we are uncomfortable with faith in the public arena.

  • If God helps Tebow successfully weave through a half dozen defenders to score, fine. Tebow has asked for God’s help, God has chosen to help him, and Tebow is suitably grateful. Okay, I have no issue with Tebow. I’d like to talk about the half dozen defenders.

    We can choose to see this as a story about Tebow’s success, assisted by God. Or we can see this as the failure of the defenders to stop him. Did they forget to ask for God’s help? Is not a single one of them a Christian who prays for strength, for speed, for success before a game? If God has answered Tebow’s prayers, doing so has involved turning a deaf ear to theirs.

    Is there meaning to be found in Tebow’s success? Then surely there is meaning to be found in his opponents’s failure. Does God prefer that prayers be accompanied by a public display, that everyone knows how often, and for how long, a man prays? Perhaps God is offended by the furtive, private prayers that those defensemen offered up. They may well have misunderstood the lesson of Matthew 6:5, (“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”) which I guess is not about football after all.

    I have to wonder about the judgement of a coach who would let his defensive line just go out and play with no visible demonstration of faith. If the Lord’s help is available to players who ask for it, why would he let them play without praying? Is he trying to lose? Or is he perhaps helping Tebow score, for the greater glory of God? How does an honorable man render unto Caesar in a case like this? If Tebow is “a Christian first and a football player second,” should not the coach cleave to that same high standard?

    How can decent men, coaches and players alike, try to defeat someone who isn’t just playing football to earn a living in the entertainment industry, but is actually witnessing for Christ every time he steps onto the field? Is God sending these guys down to defeat because they are not in fact decent men? Tebow is playing for Christ; are these guys playing against just Tebow, or are they flying in the face of the very Deity himself?

  • I haven’t watched Tebow play, but if his touchdown celebration is kneeling down and saying a quick prayer, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It seems less annoying than many other touchdown celebrations.

  • Ehhh, it just doesn’t seem that controversial to me. With all the grandstanding most football players do, a quick prayer is almost a welcome relief in comparison. And professional football isn’t something government sponsored (yet) so people aren’t going to get up in arms with someone endorsing their religious opinion. That’s really how all football players make their money anyways- by branding themselves. Whatshisface with the hair does all those Pantene commercials, and everyone knows who he is because of the hair: he’s a brand. Tebow has just branded himself a face of Christianity, and I’m sure he’ll be making money off of that. If anything, it’s a brilliant marketing scheme.

  • I’m not offended because Tebow is Christian, I’m offended because he’s a Gator. I also think most people find it too showy and fake. It’s like Lexington said, a brilliant marketing scheme. The world of professional sports is more grandstanding and testosterone than sensitivity and faith. So for Tebow to maintain his strict Christianity makes him either one of the strongest men in professional sports, or a liar. It’s easier to believe he’s a liar–more people can relate to that.

  • I think a lot of people share your reaction, anonymous, and object, not to Tebow’s Christianity, but to his ostentatious display of it, and/or to the apparent absurdity that I referred to in my first post, i.e. if Tebow’s winning thanks to Jesus, his opponents’ loss must be God’s will as well. Both of these are the target of SNL’s skit, which mocks both Tebow’s theatrical show of piety and the very idea that God might help Christians win football games.
    I think Pat Robertson is being either disingenuous or just obtuse (it’s often hard to tell with him) when he denounces the skit as an example of “anti-Christian bigotry.” Its point is both sharper and better aimed than that, and would have to be. In a country where 77% of the population self-identify as Christians, anti-Christian bigotry could hardly be played for laughs. Pomposity and absurdity, on the other hand, are targets most of SNL’s viewers are quite comfortable laughing at.
    Many people share an idea of Christianity that has to do with the teachings of Christ related in the Gospels. I quoted the Gospel of Matthew earlier on the subject of public displays of piety, which Jesus did not seem to be a big fan of. Gently mocking Tebow for his habit of incessantly “tebowing” in front of millions of sports fans strikes me as more Christlike than anti-Christian.
    The Gospels are strangely silent on the question of Christ’s team preferences for both NCAA and AFL/NFL, so he could be a fan of the Gators, the Broncos, or both. I might have imagined him rooting for Notre Dame and the Saints, but as I am neither a Christian nor a football fan, I certainly wouldn’t argue the point.

  • Hmm, that’s something that I hadn’t considered before: is Tebow doing it to be ostentatious, or is he doing it from a sincere place in his heart? Honestly, I don’t think that’s something we’ll ever be able to answer.

    Personally, I think everyone has self-serving motives for everything they do, so even if it really is a marketing scheme, I don’t have a problem with it.

    Maybe we just have to think of his prayers as the Christian version of jazz hands: Kinda showboaty and even a little obnoxious when you see someone whipping them out all the time. But, they’re not hurting anyone, and they are a pretty good way to hit that high note at the end of a number. 😉

  • My only beef is with article here is the “people say…” line. What people? What exactly did they say? Gimmie some links here, don’t just reference the ever demonized “they” and expect me to go Google it. 🙂

    I have no problem with a guy who wants to demonstrate his faith or pray on the field, as long as he’s not delaying the game. If the NFL all of a sudden imposes a “prayer time out” every time Tebow scores… now you’re going to make the recording go too long for my DVR and I’ll miss the end of the game, and THAT’S BS.

    I really don’t think Tebow is saying “God granted me this win over my heathen opponents” as much as “Thank you for everything in my life.” He seems to be less “Look at what an awesome Christian I am for winning” and more “I don’t care if you judge me for praying in public”. I get the impression he’s the type of guy who would still be openly praying even if he was in a wheelchair or in a hospital bed, but nobody would be making fun of him for it in that arena.

    Either way, I still wouldn’t hold him up as a role model, simply because I don’t think any wildly rich and famous person like a sports figure or celebrity should be looked up to as role models. I’m a bigger fan of just the normal people like police officers, fire fighters, teachers, doctors, parents, grandparents, etc.

    There are very few celebrities (even the “good Christian” ones) who don’t ultimately fail the morality test in the long run.

  • Christians have answers for everything don’t they? Tebow wins, God; Tebow loses, God; Tebow gets hurt, God; Prayer answered, God; Prayer not answered, God; starving kids, God; plenty of food for kids, blessing from God; hurricane, God; volcano, God, and on and on it goes. Christians I know were besides themselves when Tebow was pulling off these last second wins, now I here nothing from them. Yea I agree, God helps Tim Tebow win football games just like he helps starving children around the world dying by the thousands every day. God finds parking spaces close to the store when your sick, or helps you find your keys when there lost. God is very busy taking care of every little need of millions upon millions of Christians around the world every second, busy indeed. Talk about multitasking. Christians make me laugh.

    • ALL Protestants and Catholics are stupid and are headed straight to hell for following men instead of God.

      God does NOT give a fig about stupid football.

      Tebow does NOT love Jesus if he continues to be in the NFL or ESPN. They won’t save him from God’s wrath. Too bad, he seems nice.

  • Christians are NOT supposed to play football on God’s HOLY day. You Sunday “christians” are a real piece of work. The WHOLE DAY IS HOLY not just your church service. Easter is FAKE because Jesus said He would be buried 3DAYS & 3NIGHTS. Good Friday to sunrise Sunday is only 1.5 days NOT 3. You are preaching LIES, sending people to HELL and calling Jesus a LIAR. The SABBATH is GOD’S HOLY DAY always has been and ALWAYS will be.


    • Today’s internet sermon is brought to you by Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 3, and the book of Matthew chapter 7.

      1 – Everybody is fucked without Jesus, even Tebow fans.
      2 – Don’t go around judging other people and pretending like your shit doesn’t stink.

  • I do thank God for giving me a success and helping me win in all things. This does not mean he made others loose but He will certainly take sides with those who trust in HIM. God has children and as a Father, he honors their prayer. In every thing we do as Christians we make Jesus Known since He is both our Life and the Power that works in us. we have nothing to boast about,

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