For the most part, I don’t consider myself a Football fan. Its not that I dislike Football, it’s more a matter of time. After investing a lot of time in the New York Yankees from late February when Pitchers and Catchers report to Florida for Major League Baseball training till the end of the World Series in late October (which on a somewhat regular basis the Yankees are in, or at least get close to it) by then, Football is already half-way through their season, so I’ve never gotten overly interested or excited about different teams. With most of the games being played on Sunday, which happens to be quite a busy day of the week for me, its hard to get into a team when you’re not able to watch them and support them on a weekly basis. I must admit that I do have teams that I root against, like the Patriots and the Eagles (just because they’re the home towns to Baseball teams I hate); and most Jets fans are Mets fans which is another problem. But aside from those dislikes, and catching a game here or there, I don’t follow the NFL, their teams or their players too much.
Which is why it’s interesting that I do know who Tim Tebow is. I know that he’s a Quarterback. Off the top of my head I remembered that he played football in college at a School in Florida and got selected for the NFL for Detroit? (A quick check on Google filled in the blanks he actually plays for Denver – I knew the city started with a “D” – and the college was University of Florida).
But the main reason I know who he is, has little to do with Football. It’s because not only does he not hide his faith in Jesus Christ, but he actually (get prepared to be shocked) tries to live his life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Taking such a public stance has resulted in some surprising things that you’d find few parallels with other athletes. A few years ago at a news conference, he was asked “Are you saving yourself till marriage” and he responded yes - he is still a virgin. Can’t remember seeing that question asked of many athletes at their press-conferences. He has taken things like his signing bonus and gives it to charity. He, at this early stage of his career, has already started a foundation to help inner city kids, orphanages in the Phillipines (where he was born) and get assistance for kids who are suffering from a variety of illnesses through helping establish hospitals or other medical assistance. His belief is that all that he has, all of his gifts, talents, abilities come from the Lord, and so he publically acknowledges that with taking a knee in prayer on the field - as he does off the field.
Sadly, all of this has become controversial. He’s made fun of both on the field and off for this. A few weeks ago, when Tebow’s team lost, several players on the opposing team mockingly went to their knees in what they called “tebowing.” And then this past week a retired NFL player, Jake Plummer went even further. He was interviewed on a Phoenix radio station and said he would like Tebow more if he would "shut up" about his faith in Jesus Christ.
If it had been me I probably would have pointed out the irony of his detractors finding difficulties with how he lives his life rather than looking at their own. So Tebow challenges me as well as he responded true to himself and his faith as he said: "If you're married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife 'I love her' the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity? And that's how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ is that it is the most important thing in my life. So any time I get an opportunity to tell him that I love him or given an opportunity to shout him out on national TV, I'm gonna take that opportunity. And so I look at it as a relationship that I have with him that I want to give him the honor and glory anytime I have the opportunity. And then right after I give him the honor and glory, I always try to give my teammates the honor and glory. And that's how it works because Christ comes first in my life, and then my family, and then my teammates. I respect Jake's opinion, and I really appreciate his compliment of calling me a winner. But I feel like anytime I get the opportunity to give the Lord some praise, he is due for it."
That shouldn’t be controversial. That’s not supposed to inspire hostile reactions. That’s called “testifying” to Jesus Christ. It’s precisely what John the Baptist is doing in the Gospel today. To put the Gospel in context, we have to remember that for awhile, John had his own followers. People who were coming out to hear him preach. People who were being moved to repentance, to changing their lives, to conversion.
But John realized that wasn’t because of anything he was doing. He knew that the Lord had commissioned him. Entrusted him to be “the voice of one crying in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” He knew that all his gifts, his abilities were not to make him into an idol himself – he clearly knows this as he declares who he is not – I am not the Christ; he recognizes that the “baptism” he’s offering of water (that throngs of people are coming to receive) pales in comparison to the Baptism to come in Jesus Christ. John the Baptist knows in his innermost being that his goal, his mission was by his very life to point to the one who is the Christ, to prepare people to welcome Jesus into their lives, to be the one who would call humanity to “Behold the Lamb of God.”
For you and I this Third Sunday of Advent, we’re left with the same mission. We are not unaware of who it is that’s coming, or in fact, already here. We are not confused as to who’s birth it is at Christmas that transformed humanity forever. But perhaps we need to remind ourselves of our responsibility to share that good news, to point to Jesus Christ in all that we say and do in our lives. Which is perhaps why Tebow makes some uncomfortable. In a day and age where there’s been a shift to humanize heroes and to trivialize virtue, people wait for dirt to come. One commentator put it like this in an opinion piece that was published this week:
“...we don't want heroes who are truly good. We want them to fail the occasional drug test or start a bar fight from time to time. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Tebow, however, doesn't make us feel better about ourselves. People like him make us feel a little convicted about the things we say and do. So we find a reason to dislike them. Or, when Tebow says that glory goes to God and the credit for a victory goes to his teammates, coaches, and family, we are suspicious. An increasingly jaded culture, we don't believe that anyone can say such things and really mean them.
So we wait.
We wait for evidence that he really isn't that good. We hope to see him kick a player on the ground, drop an F-bomb on television, or Tweet pictures of his privates. In the meantime, we always have Penn State's Jerry Sandusky to make us feel better about ourselves. (Larry Taunton, USA Today)
I wonder if that’s true. Have we grown so cynical, so jaded that the life and message of Jesus Christ seems too good to be true, so we profess our belief in him to a certain extent as an insurance policy just in case rather than truly believing with all our hearts and souls that it is true, than nothing else really matters.
Tim Tebow seems to be secure enough as a man not to need the defense of some priest who’s never met him or any of us for that matter. And I’m sure he takes comfort that the Lord Jesus who was ridiculed and mocked as well, till he ended up dead on a cross - is with him when the attacks and mockery get ugly. Because Tebow realizes that the love he has for Jesus barely scratches the surface of the love Jesus has for him and for each of us. So rather than trying to defend Tebow, the challenge is will we try to imitate him, as well as John the Baptist - by using our lives to point to Jesus Christ as well?