Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Evangelizing on the Grid Iron

Evangelizing on the Grid Iron

          Tim Tebow’s unlikely NFL season came to an end last Saturday night.  Tebow, of course, is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, who were eliminated from the playoffs by the New England Patriots 45-10.  However, Tebow has been the main story of this season and has also been an unlikely lightning rod for controversy.

           There are many things unorthodox about Tebow’s play on the football field.  And some in the sports world have taken offense (particularly after being defeated by the Broncos).  The fact that fans were calling for Tebow to start in place of Kyle Orton riled up those who insisted that he didn’t have the skill set to be successful in the NFL.  His use of a college-style offense in the pros has unquestionably offended the pride of others, especially since he’s been winning with it.

          Without question, Tebow’s passing accuracy will need to improve.  But given an entire off season, I expect that it will.  We have already seen him make great strides in his decision making and throwing mechanics in a period of just a few months.  And even many of his strongest doubters have acknowledged that his “intangibles” – will, leadership, guts – have made him an effective and exciting player.

          So where’s the real controversy?  Tim Tebow is, brace yourselves…a Christian!  But not just a Christian (most players in the NFL are), he acknowledges Jesus by Name at the start of every interview.  He is known to be pro-life, unashamed of his chastity, and he prays regularly…on the field!

          To some people, this can not be tolerated.  There are those who actually claim to hate Tim Tebow.  There have been NFL players who have committed crimes from drug abuse to sexual assault to battery, and they are not considered controversial.  But a man who loves Jesus and isn’t afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve is somehow a menace to society.  Many of the comments aimed at him have been so hateful and so disgusting I can’t bring myself to quote them.

          But through it all, Tim Tebow has responded brilliantly.  When people have said he should keep his faith quiet, he has refused.  As a matter of fact, when he was no longer allowed to wear “John 3:16” on his eye black, he responded by passing for 316 yards in his first playoff game (which garnered a fourth quarter rating of 31.6).  Perhaps that was God’s commentary.  Whether he plays brilliantly and the Broncos win or he plays terribly and the Broncos lose, he carries himself with the same dignity, respect and optimism.  Media personalities in the sports world have said to a man that he is genuine, that what he shows us is who he is, and that’s he’s a great person.

          Most of all, Tim Tebow himself has kept things in perspective.  He has said that he sees his opportunity to play in the NFL as a platform to evangelize.  He doesn’t proselytize, he evangelizes – by who he is, how he carries himself, and by acknowledging publicly the most important thing in his life – his relationship with Jesus Christ.

          Now I may have some disagreements with Mr. Tebow about some of the theological details of justification or Church governance (he’s an evangelical Protestant), but I admire him greatly.  What he does is what we all should do.  We are all evangelists.  Most of us don’t have the national stage that Tim Tebow does, but we have all been planted somewhere, with a message and an opportunity to share that message.

          I have never met Tim Tebow, but I’m relatively sure he cares very little what the Bill Mahers of the world say about him.  He is far more concerned with what Jesus will say about him – “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”