First of all, truth time. I’m a Tim Tebow fan. I have to confess my shame. For his senior season at the College-that-shall-not-be-named, I actually found myself rooting for a team I’d have never thought I could root for. His testimony for Christ and his enthusiasm actually made me a fan of the Slytherin Gators for one season. I’ve been a Steelers’ fan since the Steel Curtain dominated the scrimmage line in the days of my youth. But when Tebow’s Broncos faced Pittsburgh in the playoffs, I was rooting for Tebow and rejoicing at his miraculous overtime victory.
And, also by way of admission, I’m not always a fan of Robert Jeffress’ tactics in the culture war. I agree with his viewpoints, as best I can tell, but I often disagree with his methods and his tactics. I don’t really want this post to be about those disagreements, I’m just pointing out my post is not intended as an apology for FBC, Dallas or its pastor.
When Tim Tebow cancelled his appointment to speak at FBC, Dallas’s service, I was upset. I even fired off a couple of tweets in my anger and frustration that I wish now that I could untweet. It seemed clear to me then what still seems clear to me now. Tebow yielded to the intense pressure of the secular press’ criticisms of FBC, Dallas. The early returns showed Christians largely felt as I did. There was a sense of betrayal and anger that prevailed. Another Christian celebrity had given in to the pull of popularity, public opinion, and cultural acceptance; softening his biblical convictions in the process. (The last sentence is meant as an observation of prevailing opinion as I read it, not a statement of fact.)
Then, the tide turned. Trevin Wax wrote an article rebuking the lack of grace that Christians were showing toward Tebow. I’m not sure his was the first, but it was the first I read. A full spate of tweets, FB statuses and blogposts followed that chastised us for our graceless, cruel responses. That old standard, “The Christian army is the only one that shoots its wounded,” began to pop up. And they certainly had a point. I read those calls to grace and I felt chagrined at some of my original pronouncements. I was harsh and judgmental.
Since then, the general tone of Christian social media has been to gather around him in support. And, certainly, we ought to do that. He is a brother in Christ who had a tough decision to make and whether any of us liked that choice, he is still our brother in Christ.
But, I have to admit something. I appreciate the clarion call of grace – it is needed. But there is something about this whole thing that still sticks in my craw. I want to avoid the kind of public chastisement of Tim Tebow that many, myself included, engaged in early on. I do not know the pressures that were put on him or the thought-process he went through in reaching his decision.
But Tim is a public figure and has professed Christ with boldness. He is possibly second only to Billy Graham as the most well-known Christian in America. He has not shied away from being a public figure or a vocal Christian. Because of that, his opinions hold weight and his actions carry a symbolism. So, yes, we need to demonstrate kindness to him. We need to support him, love him, affirm him.
But I still think he made a bad decision. He agreed to speak at FBC, Dallas, and then when the intense pressure from a hostile, anti-Christian, mainstream media came down on him, he withdrew from the engagement. Whatever his reasoning, whatever his thought process, the secular media and the public seemed to have drawn some conclusions from this event:
1) There is something shameful and extreme about FBC, Dallas. They are, according to reports, “anti-gay and antisemitic.” Well, by that standard, every Bible-believing, Gospel-proclaiming church in America has to plead guilty to the labels of anti-gay and antisemitic. We believe that homosexual behavior is sinful and we believe that “salvation is found in no one else,” that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” No one is saved without repenting of their sins and placing their faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of their race, nationality or religious origin. Jews need Jesus. Muslims need Jesus. Hindus need Jesus. Religious American “Christians” need Jesus. We all need him.
It seems to me that FBC, Dallas, and its pastor were smeared throughout this. Nothing new there. However, Tebow’s actions tacitly fed that perception.
2) Bullying and intimidation by the liberal media are effective. There was a hue and cry raised – unfair as it was. And those who worked to paint our sister Baptist church in the worst possible light got their way. They won. Tebow cancelled. Tebows actions gave credibility to the bullying tactics of the press, who crowed over their success.
I think Tim Tebow lost a wonderful chance. All he had to say was something like this:
I will go anywhere I am asked, if I am able, to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. My commitment is to Christ and the gospel, and I will go wherever invited to tell people about Him!
I do not want to join in the Tebow bashing any more. Usually, I try to hold off and only write things after I’ve cooled down. I usually regret (as I do this time) when I fire off angry tweets or speak without thinking. That was wrong.
But I am not ready even now to join the “no big deal” chorus. Showing grace does not mean that we cannot challenge actions. Christians in the public square need to realize that their actions are scrutinized in the media and among the populace. And if we hide our light or even inadvertently give credence to the idea that biblical Christians are dangerous extremists who need to be excluded, ostracized or quarantined, we do damage to the cause.
The time is soon coming when every Christian in America is going to have to choose – will we please God and follow scripture or will we please people and follow the world? In America, we’ve been able to avoid the kinds of choices the early Christians and millions of Christians throughout history and around the world today have had to make. Now, we are going to have to endure the reproach of the world to stand for Christ. Actors, politicians, athletes and other Christian celebrities are going to have to choose a side. As the media intentionally paints all Bible-believing Christians as first cousins to the Westboro cult, we will no longer be able to keep a toe in both worlds.
So, I want to join in the chorus that says, “Tim Tebow, our brother in Christ, we love you.” But I cannot join in giving him a complete pass for this decision, as if it did not matter. I do not agree. This is a big deal. Whatever was in Tim’s mind or heart, I do not know. But his actions left an unfortunate impression that has not helped our cause in this world.