Is Tim Tebow on God's Fantasy Football Team?
I don’t know much about Denver Bronco's quarterback Tim Tebow.
In fact, until lately the only thing I knew about Tebow was that he was featured in a pro-life ad that ran during last year’s Super Bowl.
This season, he's hit my radar as I’ve seen his name appear quite often in the news, but since I’m not a football fan, I still haven’t been following his story closely.
Then today, after seeing a post on TMZ.com in which Tebow's pastor declared that God is responsible for intervening in the star quarterback's games — and in a sense rewarding his strong public faith with victory — I became more intrigued. Mostly because I don’t think God works this way.
According to TMZ, the Rev. Wayne Hanson of Summit Church in Castle Rock, Colo., where Tebow's father often speaks says God is helping Tebow on the field because of his strong faith.
"It's not luck," Hanson told TMZ. "Luck isn't winning six games in a row. It's favor. God's favor...God has blessed his hard work."
And when TMZ asked him whether the Tebow would be winning were it not for his Christian faith, the pastor said, "No, of course not."
Clearly, there’s something unique about this guy. From the few reports I’ve read, Tebow, the handsome 25-year-old Heisman trophy winner, is gushing with love for Jesus and is more than comfortable sharing his faith with others. Not to mention he’s a pretty good football player.
Tebow is the youngest of five children born Baptist missionaries who were serving in the Phillippines at the time of his birth Tebow's mother, who nearly lost him in utero after a life-threatening infection, homeschooled her youngest boy into his high school years. (Tebow is the first homeschooled player — and the first sophomore ever — to win the Heisman.)
He first drew media attention related to his faith during his successful college career at the University of Florida, where he frequenty wore Bible verses written in the eye black patches worn on his cheeks during games. When Tebow sported the black patches with "John 3:16" written in white during the 2009 BCS Championship Game, 92 million people searched for that scripture reference on Google in the hours after the game.
(The NCAA has since outlawed players wearing any messages in their eye black, a new regulation known as the "Tebow Rule." His habit of kneeling prayerfully on the field when he scores even spawned its own gerund and internet meme: "Tebowing.")
When asked why he’s so vocal about his beliefs, Tebow said, "If you're married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only tell your wife that you love her on the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? That's how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ."
Wow, I can see why God would like him. And why fans of Cinderella stories would too. This season, as the Bronco's starting quarterback, Tebow has led his team to several dramatic victories, battling back from trailing scores in the last quarter. He’s a gifted athlete, and one who seems to be genuinely humble about it.
But if Tebow and I (and his pastor) are reading the same Gospel, every player in the NFL is on God’s team. Not just Tebow. Not just the ones who pray or express their faith as openly as he does.
We are all God’s children, whether we kneel down and point to the sky in praise after winning, or curse in frustration after losing.
The Bible tells us that God pours out grace and blessings on the just and the unjust alike, just as sunlight shines on the righteous and the wicked.
Tebow's pastor might believe that God is rewarding the football phenom for his faith.
And maybe God is.
But maybe God is also at work in and through the "losers" — the fumblers, the intercepted, the last-place teams and the players who haven’t gotten their cleats muddy for a moment all season.
Some of us might believe that Tebow's victories are the pay-off of hard work and determination.
Or we might believe that the outcome of any given game on any given Sunday (or Monday or Thursday) is simply a matter of chance.
Regardless of whether you think Tebow is blessed or lucky, it’s encouraging to see an athlete of his profile speakk so openly about his faith, when many of his cohorts in the sports world seem to talk about little else than their desire to add yet another zero to their mega salaries.
Time will tell whether Tebow's renown is the result of luck, hard work or God's favor.
But if he’s as committed to God as he appears to be, Tebow's faith will be evident in the way he celebrates after epic wins — in the thrills of victory — and, perhaps, whether he continues "Tebowing" even amidst the (rare as they may be) agonies of defeat.
Joshua Witchger is an editorial web assistant for Sojourners.