So, it seems Tim Tebow’s first regular-season game with the New York Jets will be Sept. 9. You know Tim Tebow, the outspoken, openly Christian quarterback who last season ignited television debates like “Does God care who wins in football?” after several amazing late-game plays for his team then, the Denver Broncos. He’s the fellow who gave us the term “Tebowing” to describe getting down on one knee and lifting up a prayer in the middle of activities all around.
While not the most talented NFL player by a long shot — or so I’m told — he was definitely its biggest news story last season.
That Tim Tebow.
No doubt Tebow fanaticism will reignite as the regular football season progresses. All it will take is a few successful plays and the discussions about whether he’s “God’s quarterback” will start up again.
I’m not a big football fan. I am a big Tebow fan, however, as he seems like a humble, genuine guy who really seeks to be a Christ follower even in, especially in, the swirl of the fame and riches surrounding him.
What I’m not so crazy about is how many Christians seem to idolize him.
In particular, many of his supporters look up to him as a role model for his moral virtue, often praising him not just for his sexual purity in his singleness but also his work ethic, kindness to others, respect for elders, financial generosity and commitment to causes and on it goes.
All of these are terrific and worthy of praise. My fear: What about when he fails?
I don’t mean just if there is evidence of public drunkenness or an instance of sexual sin, which could happen. I’m suggesting that if this guy so much as snaps at a waitress in a restaurant we’re going to hear about it from his detractors and we’ll be told how such a thing “impugns” his Christian faith.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid a lot of Christians would buy that nonsense, too.
If we Christians believe that Christ makes a difference, then the life of a Christian should look different. Agreed. But I wince, for starters, whenever I hear someone refer to a person as “a good Christian.” Because to me, that builds up the person more than the God he serves. After all, we Christians believe that the reason we need a savior in the first place is precisely because we are not good.
Scripture says that it’s in our weakness that God is most glorified. So maybe it’s in struggling, or questioning, or not living up to the Christian expectations we have of ourselves that God can shine through us most if we admit our need and walk with him during those times. Because then it’s his strength, not ours, which is most evident.
Unfortunately, today’s American Christian culture is very much about being strong and independent and “being a good Christian.” In other words, it’s too often all about “me.”
The reality is that Christians fail. That means that churches are full of sinners, just as they are supposed to be. So what may really define us Christians is not so much a good moral life, which a lot of people lead whether or not they have faith, but how we ask God to be at work in us when it comes to our shortcomings — even our sin itself.
It seems to me we Christians can encourage Tebow by praying that he would resist temptation and be able to live a virtuous life, all good. But even more, by praying that inevitably when his sinful nature shows itself, and it will, that he will be able to genuinely point not to his faith but to the object of his faith (Christ) as that which saves him. That’s the Gospel.
If more American Christians would start living a little more transparently and less self-reliantly, even self-righteously, if we would all be a little more honest about our struggles and get over the impulse to think that virtue saves anyone, we could make the world a little safer for the Tim Tebows who are out in front.
And there would be real power in that.
Betsy Hart’s latest book is “From The Hart: A Collection of Favorite Columns on Love, Loss, Marriage (and Other Extreme Sports).” Reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org.