Tim Tebow has made a grievous mistake (Part commentary, part open letter)

I have been a fan of Tim Tebow since 2006. When Steve Spurrier coached the Florida Gators I couldn’t stand them, but when Chris Leak went there I began to cheer for them. Leak was an All-Everything quarterback for my alma mater, the Independence Patriots. And in Leak’s senior year he led them to the National Championship. But even though Leak was the starter, it seemed his backup was getting more buzz than he was. Tebow was a freshman that year, and many Gator fans seemed to want him in the lineup more than Leak.

Nevertheless, the more I learned about Tebow the more I liked him. You know the story. Here was an outspoken Christian, the son of missionaries, willing to write Bible verses on his eye-black and speak openly about his faith in Jesus Christ. He didn’t get into trouble off the field, played great on the field, and was committed to his team, but more important, his Savior. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy and another National Championship as the starting quarterback, and was drafted by the NFL’s Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Tebow’s outspoken Christianity already gained him critics before he left Gainesville, but it seems like the moment he threw his last college pass they got a lot louder. Never mind his winning record, this guy was going to be a bust. He can’t throw the ball like an NFL quarterback, they said. He doesn’t have what it takes to win at that level, they said. And yet, underneath all of that as he was leading the Broncos to the playoffs in his second season was an undercurrent of hatred for the One he had placed his faith in.

Make no mistake about it: While NFL coaches and scouts may not want Tebow on their team because of the hitch in his throwing motion, sports media types love to talk about Tebow because of their ratings and page views, but absolutely hate him because of his faith. Want evidence? You don’t have to look very hard, but check out this vitriolic, libelous piece posted by CBS Sports online columnist Greg Doyel regarding Tebow’s planned speaking engagement at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX, pastored by Robert Jeffress. In it, Doyel writes,

Tim Tebow is about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

Tebow has agreed to speak at a hateful Baptist preacher’s church, an evangelical cretin named Robert Jeffress who does the work of the Lord sort of like Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kan., does the work of the Lord.

Doyel goes on to say that Jeffress isn’t as bad as Westboro. I have to ask, then, “Why make the comparison, then?” Clearly it was meant to inflame the reader. In a court of law it would be objected to and sustained for being prejudicial. But Doyel has no sense of fairness or justice [Aside: The day he left The Charlotte Observer’s ACC beat was a happy day].

The Huffington Post also chimed in. Bottom line: Tim Tebow the outspoken Christian sports superstar was getting blasted by the world for accepting a speaking engagement at a church whose pastor has said: a) homosexuality is a sin and there are serious ramifications for it, and more importantly, b) that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and Jews, Mormons, and any other non-Christians are found wanting. Consider the following from Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports:

The primary reason First Baptist Church draws controversy is because of Jeffress’ views that all those not pursuing his particular brand of Christianity are destined for Hell, a group that includes not only non-Christians such as Jews and Muslims, but also other denominations such as Catholics, as well as Mormons.

That paragraph was written today in response to the news that Tim Tebow has backed out of that appearance at First Baptist Dallas. In a series of tweets today, this was his statement:

While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!

This is where the open letter part begins.

Tim Tebow, if you are reading this, what “new information” was brought to your attention? I have to ask because, given your statement and the recent online commentaries about your scheduled appearance, many of your brothers and sisters in Christ who admired you for your steadfast faith countering a culture that hates Christ are left to conclude, rightly so I believe, that you have cowered to pressure to be politically and religiously correct. We are left to conclude that, contrary to the verse your eye-black pointed television viewers to, Philippians 4:13, you don’t think you have the strength through Christ to do all things.

So I have to ask, what is this new information? Now, do I agree with every facet of theology with Robert Jeffress? Probably not. I do admire his willingness to speak truth boldly, though, even if I would sometimes speak it boldly in a little bit different way. I do believe Jeffress is a brother concerned with what he sees in our country and in our world and he knows that Jesus is the answer. I think you probably are, too.

And that is why it is so disappointed to see that you have backed out. Unless you tell us otherwise I have to conclude that you cowered in the face of adversity, that given the possibility of a cultural onslaught against you, led by a willing sports media, you backed down, perhaps for football reasons, business reasons. Maybe you, like others recently (see also Louie Giglio), just didn’t want to be involved in the controversy associated with the culture war.

But see, you really didn’t have a choice. Like it or not you are one of the most public Christians in our country. God has given you a platform not only to live out the gospel, but when it’s appropriate, to speak truth with love, even when it won’t be received warmly. Jesus told us that the world would hate us because it hated Him. Yet, He never retreated from controversy. And as His disciples we’re told in many different ways to stand firm for what is true and right.

Like it or not, with your withdrawal you have lost more than you have gained. You have, whether you realize it or not, intended it or not, sent a message that Jeffress’s “particular brand of Christianity” of which Busbee writes is incorrect, and that through the one and only gospel Jesus Christ isn’t the only means of salvation. You’ve sent a message, again whether you realize it or not, that homosexuality isn’t what the Bible and 2000 years of established church history says it is.

While the media might not come after you as hard as they might have had you spoken at First Baptist, they still hate you. AND THAT’S OK! The world is supposed to hate us! The student isn’t greater than the Teacher. That said, your capitulation to the culture here has cost you dearly in the eyes of brothers and sisters who admired you for your strength in Christ. Fathers, like me, will have to think twice before they hold you up to their sons as an example of Christianity in sports. You didn’t gain the world today, Tim, and you didn’t lose your soul, either. I still believe you to be a brother in Christ. But I’m sorry to say you did lose a lot of respect.

The winds of culture change. The hurricane of anti-Christian sentiment is increasing in strength. But the word of God remains sure, and thus, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must be ready to remain, and die if need be, standing up, no matter how hard those winds beat against us. Is it hard? Yes! But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I pray, my brother, that somehow, someway, you will do something to turn this around, to admit the mistake you’ve just made and win back the respect you have lost. Christ doesn’t need you for His kingdom to stand, but a lot of people, including myself, want Him to use you to further His glory.

I pray that when my times come to stand against those winds I won’t fall down. I fear this is what you’ve done in this situation. I think you have made a grievous mistake. Nevertheless, I love you. I’m praying for you. To God be the glory!

Your Brother in Christ,

Matt

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