Thursday, November 24, 2011

Witness To Jesus

Odd, isn't it, that perhaps the most talked-about and controversial witness to Jesus and the Christian faith in America today is a professional football player?

Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, is praised by some and ridiculed by others for falling down on one knee and assuming a posture of prayer on the football field.

When he played for the Florida Gators he sometimes wrote a Bible verse on the black strip under his eyes. It is said that in 2009, during and shortly after a televised college bowl championship game, when Tebow wore "John 3:16," Google counted 92 million hits on that exact New Testament verse.

In 2010 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a new rule prohibiting players from wearing messages on their eye black. Some say the rule was inspired by Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor's putting on his eye black the name "Mike Vick," his tribute to the pro quarterback who was charged with the felony of promoting dog fighting and the gambling associated with it. Vick pleaded guilty.

Others say the NCAA rule was in response to Tebow's evangelizing on the field. NCAA officials denied that assumption, but many dub the decision "the Tebow Rule." The NFL already had a similar rule in place so Tebow did not carry his custom into professional play.

In 2010 Tebow won plaudits and condemnation from fans for appearing in two television commercials during Super Bowl XLIV. The ads were sponsored by Focus on the Family, an organization on the Christian right founded by James Dobson. Tebow was telling his personal story in a pro-life context, and several pro-choice groups condemned the ad.

A November 24, 2011, article on the Huffington Post website confirmed that teammates and coaches believe Tebow is honest and sincere, that his commitment to Christ is as real off the field as on.

Tebow wrote in his autobiography Through My Eyes, "For as long as I can remember, this was instilled in me: to have fun, love Jesus and others, and tell them about Him."

As a Christian I am proud of Tebow's witness. As a priest I am a bit embarrassed --not by his witness but by my failure to be as committed an evangelist.

Granted his "pulpit" is much bigger than mine, but his commitment to Christ and giving witness to Him is bigger too.

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