I will confess right now to having a man-crush on Tim Tebow. Nothing too surprising there, since two-thirds of men in America right now would probably (if they are honest) claim the same thing. (Click here for an example of the hoopla.) There are multiple reasons for my admiration of him.
I love that he is a Florida Gator. He went to ‘my’ school and he represents the Gator Nation so well. At a time in UF’s football history when there were a few too many run ins between football players and police officers, you never had to worry about Tim providing an embarrassing blemish to the university’s image. You still don’t. It only helps the man crush that right now, along with a plaque commemorating his ‘promise’ speech, there is a statue of Tebow outside the stadium alongside the Gators’ other Heisman trophy winners Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel.
I love his leadership. In college the most famous instance of this is his “Promise” speech. After a lethargic loss to a much overmanned opponent, Tebow promised that he would personally work harder than any other player and the team would play harder than any other. Proved true, they won the national championship that year.
Even on his pro team, this may be his greatest attribute. Much maligned for his ‘lack’ of football skill, Tebow has at times indeed performed poorly. Yet, he has led and inspired a team to perform beyond what they did before he was the starter. There would be no Tebow-time if the defense didn’t keep the game close. Tim got the defense to buy into his leadership; quite the undertaking considering how loudly many ‘experts’ were chiding the decision to start him.
I love his beliefs. Tim Tebow follows Jesus. He seems to have his identity in Christ securely in place. Many, many people do not understand why he thanks God, calls Jesus his savior, has stayed a virgin, focuses his attention on the Philippines, and then says that football is not a big deal. And that tune has not changed since college. If he was seeking his sense of self from all the media, pressure, fame, money, etc., it would be easy for that to seep into and shape his behaviors. It seems not to with Tim and that gives testimony to the security of his identity.
So now that I’ve confessed and explained my man-crush, my question is what are we doing to Tim Tebow?
After this weekend’s victory over the Bears, I checked out the #Tebow feed on twitter, and the overwhelming response from those whose profile describes them as believers in Christ is that winning is what happens when you love God well. Stated another way, the reasoning goes like this: Tim loves Jesus, Tim tells people he loves Jesus, Tim does good things for Jesus, so God wants Tim to win football games.
That is flat out ridiculous.
Not only that, it is damaging to the Gospel message that Tebow and a whole host of others are living for. Among the damaging questions…
If you say God wants Tim to win, then what about when he loses a game? (It will happen, it’s part of playing.)
Does that mean Tim is no longer in God’s favor?
If Tim had lived better for Jesus, he would have won?
What about members of the Bears who love Jesus?
Does God play favorites?
Each of these questions can and will be personalized. If I am not experiencing success, does that mean God does not love me? Or that I’ve done something wrong? Or has He left me? Is God fickle?
I know what some Christians are trying to do, use Tebow as an evangelism tool. “Look at his success, that’s what following Jesus is like!” Yet, that is not everyone’s (or even most’s) experience. There are Christians who live in abject poverty, many live under constant threat, some live in the battle of addiction, others live an unheralded life. Attaching relationships like Tebow’s success proves God’s love sends a message about God that is false.
What happens when someone’s experience of God is different than the success they were promised? Now we have created a stumbling block to people seeing who God really is. Let’s not do that to Tim Tebow.
I work with pastors and the people they lead to energize discipleship and improve leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
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