Tebow, First Baptist Dallas, and Christianity in America

I like Tim Tebow.Tim Tebow

The young man has displayed a ton of integrity over the course of his public life, first as QB of the Florida Gators (who I despise), and then as an NFL QB with the Denver Broncos and the NY JETS. I have always appreciated his willingness to publicly live his faith in a humble, consistent manner. I admire how he has handled personal attacks and criticisms that range from his playing ability to his Christianity.

Because of his commitment to Christ, Tebow has long been a lightening rod, earning accolades from the faithful and, if not condemnation, at least condescension from those hostile to the faith. From every quarter, however, he has won praise as an, honest, humble, just all around good guy. Of course, for any believer who will be faithful to the gospel, hostility from the world is inevitable (John 15:18).

This leads to the developments of the last few days. Tim Tebow was scheduled to speak at First Baptist Dallas’ 9:15am service on Sunday, April 28. When news of this engagement became public, many news outlets immediately began to post attack pieces on Pastor Jeffress directly and First Baptist Dallas indirectly. Tebow’s scheduled appearance at the “virulently anti-gay, anti-semitic” church was virulently questioned.

Hypocrisy is a funny thing. Take as an example Gregg Doyel’s CBSsports.com post. He “despises” Pastor Jeffress as a hate-filled preacher whose theology is unChristian. Doyel is even sure that Jeffress would have stoned Mary Magdalene. (Perhaps Doyel is asserting that the woman of John 8 is Mary Magdalene, or maybe he is just trying to make a point.) He condemns Jeffress’ “hate” in a bile-spewing column, and then responds later by saying that hating haters is ok.

The problem here is that Jeffress’ theology is very much Christian and not at all hate-filled. Love, not hate, motivates one to call sinners to repent and believe the gospel. Love, not hate, points out that false religion – including the “Christian” variety – is an ancient device used by the enemy to blind people to the good news of grace. Love does that; not hate.

It is hateful to insist that every belief is valid and that, like in antiquity all roads led to Rome, so do all religious roads lead to God. They do not. To be sure, the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord is an all-inclusive one. “Whosoever” believes in Him – that is in God’s only Son – shall receive eternal life. But the inclusivity of the Gospel does not include every faith system. Any who will repent and believe may come, but they may only come through Jesus Christ our Lord. To proclaim anything us is to participate in hate-speech.

This brings us back to Tebow’s cancellation on First Baptist of Dallas. He stated:

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!

The most charitable observation I can make of this milquetoast statement is that Tebow wanted to avoid controversy. Here is the problem. Controversy is unavoidable for the believer who will not compromise biblical beliefs, especially for one who is in the public’s eye. Backing out of his commitment, and in issuing this statement, makes it look like Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas are guilty of being a hate-filled organization just as the media has painted them. That is exactly what Paul Raushenbush of the Huffington Post wrote yesterday:

I believe that Tim Tebow was listening to the Holy Spirit when he made the decision to not associate himself with Jeffress and his worldview. Tim Tebow has joined the ranks of many Christians who are refusing to be associated with a particular strain of religious faith that is publicly connected with an anti-gay stance and flagrantly hostile to other faith traditions.

Like many evangelical young people, Tebow seems to care more about loving and being loved by Jesus than the politics that too many automatically associate with Him.

In his press release Tebow mentions that he was looking forward to sharing “Christ’s unconditional love” at First Baptist Dallas. Apparently Tebow, like so many of his evangelical brothers and sisters, now feels that the religious right is no longer a place where that can be done.

Tebow hasn’t averted a public relations problem. He hasn’t skirted controversy. He has stoked the flames! Riding the fence is never a good thing, and Tim Tebow will have to publicly announce, sooner or later, that his position is either in line with scripture, or is best described by Raushenbush. But more statements announcing his desire to “brighten people’s day” just won’t do.

God has given all believers – not just famous QBs – a commission to proclaim the gospel (see here and here). God has uniquely blessed Tebow with a public platform to do that. I’m thankful that Tebow has used that platform for that purpose. I pray that he will continue to do so.

The easiest thing to do right now is steamroll Tebow. That is not my intention. It is not what I’m doing. And I encourage other believers to avoid eviscerating the young man,Steamrolled

Instead, I encourage all believers to pray for Tebow. I have shown a lack of courage many times in my walk with Christ. The difference between me and Tebow is exposure. I have the privilege of making mistakes outside the considerable glare of public scrutiny – at least on a national level. Tebow does not. Pray for Tebow to hold firm to the faith and to be a strong voice of the faith, and then do so likewise in your own, much less public life.

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About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Pastor. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
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