He’s successful, yet humble; polite, but still willing to take an unpopular stand. Moral. Congenial. Unabashedly Christian. So why are so many Christians critical of Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow?
The football sensation has led the Broncos to six remarkable come-from-behind wins. As one reporter admitted, it’s “a streak even non-believers are calling miraculous.” Not only do non-believers appreciate Tebow’s record, they also admire his character. Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, says Tebow exemplifies a “new construct of manhood.” He’s “tough as heck on the football field, but still . . . kind, compassionate, respectful of women.” As sports reporter Dan Wetzel wrote, “You don’t have to be religious at all to enjoy Tim Tebow.”
But certainly, one would expect those of us who are religious to love Tim Tebow even more. And, I have yet to hear anyone take exception with his character or ability to rally a team. It’s his public displays of devotion that make many Christians squirm. Tebow is quick to thank Jesus after every victory. And, on the field, Tebow’s habit of kneeling for prayer has become so well-known that doing so is now called “Tebowing.”
Some say Tebow’s public displays unnecessarily offend non-Christians and urge him to be more tactful about his public witness. Others say Tebow’s practice of praying in public violates Scripture. After all, didn’t Jesus instruct his followers to pray in private?
Of course, in Jesus’ day, society valued devotion to God and such displays would only invite personal praise; today, they invite scorn. And, it seems to me, that’s really at the heart of why we Christians criticize Tim Tebow. We don’t want to risk public embarrassment and have tons of excuses for why we should mute our public witness. Tebow confronts these excuses. And, he reminds us of the importance of confessing Jesus before men. That makes us uncomfortable. Too often, we’d rather play armchair quarterback than actually get in the game.