First, a confession: I don't care for football. I believe it to be an inferior sport, and I don't really enjoy watching it much. But the Tim Tebow story is not really about football, is it? Everybody is enraptured with the "divine intervention" theory of Tebow's success, and far be it from me to doubt that perhaps God is honoring Tebow for letting his light shine before men. It surely seems as though his seven consecutive comeback victories are the result of miracles, at least within the closed system of the way football is supposed to work. For a really well-written and thoughtful take on that aspect of the story, read this story by my friend Adam Feralio.
No, the story is about a young man mocked and ridiculed not just for an unorthodox way of playing football, but his unorthodox way of talking openly about his faith in Jesus Christ. Think of how weird that is: Tebow, from all appearances, looks to be one of the kindest, nicest, meekest public figures in America today. He is not a thug, doesn't get into shootouts at strip clubs with his "posse," get arrested for drunk driving or drug possession, doesn't trash talk other players, and even responds to ridicule with incredibly good humor. And somehow Tim Tebow is the object of societal ridicule. That says a lot about us, and very little about Tim Tebow.
As a theologian who speaks often about the relationship or intersection of faith and life, I have some quibbles with the way in which Tebow lets his light shine. There is nothing wrong with just playing football, to the best of your ability, to the glory of God. Participation in sports does not have to be sanctified or "baptized" by beginning every interview (every single one) with: "First of all, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." But, as I say, this is a mere quibble. Tebow does not seem to do this to grandstand or elevate himself. He's seems truly, well, thankful to Jesus. So I say: keep being thankful, Tim. And keep on expressing your thankfulness. The test will be if you can keep it up when your team is losing and you are struggling. I have no doubts that you will give praise in times of famine as well as times of plenty.
But there is a broader question of what the ridicule and mocking means for us culturally. And I can really do no better than to point you to this outstanding article on the matter by Daniel Foster. And, if you're still interested, this article that raises the question of what would happen if Tebow happened to be a Muslim. That's a worthy diagnostic thought experiment. Why is mocking Tim Tebow, Christian, acceptable in our culture when nobody-NOBODY-would dare mock Tim Tebow, Muslim? Christians are easy targets. We don't fight back with IEDs, car bombs, kidnappings, beheadings, or violence of any kind. That's the counter-cultural dimension of Christianity. Like our Savior, we seek to respond with humility, meekness, and love, knowing that the praise of men is fleeting, but the commendation of God is of infinite value. And, you know what?
I happen to think that Tim Tebow is a sterling example.