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3/1/13 at 06:09 PM 1 Comments

Why I'm Still Bullish on Tim Tebow

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By Denny Burk

Tim Tebow has been under attack from all sides since cancelling his speaking engagement at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. On one side, those on the secular left have castigated him for not coming out strongly enough against Pastor Jeffress and his views. On the other side,some Christians have criticized him for caving in to pressure from the left. As I wrote Thursday morning, I am confident that Tebow is an orthodox believer in Jesus Christ and that no one should jump to the conclusion that he has jumped the evangelical ship. I am grateful to see that some of his closest friends are indeed confirming this impression.

Pastor Jimmy Scroggins is a lifelong friend of Tebow and has a must-read article today reminding everyone that Tebow is not afraid to take controversial stands. He concludes his article with this exhortation:

Many Christians have been critical of Tim’s decision. Others have been critical of his explanation for his withdrawal. I’m sorry if Tebow can’t meet your standard for speaking in public. This young man stands up for Christ, tries to do what is right, and proves with his actions that his faith is more than words.

We should remember that Tim is a football player. He is not a trained theologian, philosopher, apologist, or public policy expert. It is unfair to expect Tebow to speak competently and comprehensively to the complex and nuanced set of issues surrounding homosexuality. Certainly he has an opinion about God’s design for sex and marriage. I am confident that he will share his view at a time of his choosing.

I know Tim Tebow. I’ve been friends with his family since I was eight years old. I was his friend before he got famous, and I’ll be his friend after the media machine gets through with him. I am proud to hold him up as a role model for my sons. Because here is what I know about him – he isn’t a coward and he has not “caved in” under pressure. Feel free to agree or disagree with his decisions about where he speaks. But for Pete’s sake – cut the guy some slack.

Tebow’s pastor Mac Brunson also confirms that Tebow has not “caved” under pressure. He writes:

In the midst of media scrutiny, spin, and relentless analysis, Tim Tebow’s testimony has captivated the faithful, the unbelieving, and everyone in between. He has taken bold stands for Christ repeatedly that would have withered the best of us. This is not a person that capitulates. There is a lot going on right now, but Timmy trusts the Lord to lead him and he has committed his life to following Jesus… We need to pray for Tim. I spoke with Timmy recently and he still believes deeply in the Gospel we all hold dear. As an NFL football player, God has blessed him with a platform to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions. He will address other issues in his time.

Even without these personal affirmations of Tebow’s continuing commitment to Christ and His word, Tebow deserves the benefit of the doubt—not the condemnation that some are doling out. Yes, the cancellation sent a mixed signal, but I don’t believe that it was intentional. Christians especially need to be open to the possibility that his cancellation was not for the nefarious reasons that some people are assuming. I’m confident that Tebow will make that clear in the coming days.

As I have prayed for Tebow over the last few days, Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22:31-32 have been on my mind:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

What must it have meant for Peter to know that Jesus sought to strengthen his hands at the moment of his greatest trial? Should we not offer such support to brother Tebow as well? For me, anyway, the answer is clear. I hope it will be for you too.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

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