To take a knee and pray, in a public place, ideally with cameras rolling, (Tebowing as it’s known), is easily the most colorful Christian craze of 2011.
Mimicking the sideline prayer-time stance of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has caught the imagination of some sports/Jesus fans, but it begs the pressing biblical question: Would Jesus, in fact, Tebow?
While we can only speculate on how a miracle worker like Jesus would perform on the football field, we do know who would NOT be on the sidelines before the game, saying a prayer for all to see: Jesus!
How do we know that Jesus would be the first to throw a spiritual flag at Tim Tebow and friends? We have Jesus’ own words:
When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. –Matthew 6:5-6
Not only would Jesus look on disappointedly, he’d instruct you to “Get a room!”
You have to understand how extraordinary it is to have Jesus comment directly on a current hot-button issue. Too often, Jesus and the Bible are brought in as authorities on a debate topic that is never specifically addressed in the Bible. In arguing over abortion issues, for example, people tend to interpret loosely related passages in order to support their pre-existing biases and ideologies. But here we have Jesus weighing in specifically on the issue of public prayer. Not only did he preach this, but he also lived it:
And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. –Mark 1:35
Just imagine if Jesus had taught that only people of OTHER faiths should not pray in public. I could imagine certain of his followers fervently enforcing that teaching. Why those Christians think that Jesus’ “Get a room” admonition doesn’t apply to them is puzzling. Publicly praying to the guy who said don’t pray in public is like punting when the coach just called for a 2-point conversion.
Keep in mind that not all Christians say “Amen” to Tim Tebow’s actions. There are countless Christians in the NFL who don’t make a show of their faith. So why have some Christians thrilled to the sight of this gridiron genuflection? There are three main reasons:
1. Success on the Field
Tim Tebow prayed and then won, prayed and then won, prayed and then won, (except when he prayed and lost). So any Christian who is eager to believe in the power of prayer would be thrilled by that record of success.
2. A Victimhood Mentality
American Christians have been trained to think of themselves as victims of religious persecution. Our country has incredible religious freedom, but it draws the line when it comes to the government choosing a side in all things religious. Conservative Christians despise government interference, yet somehow trust our government to help promote THEIR religion.
3. Biblical Illiteracy
Your average Christians don’t know their own Bible. Passages like Matthew 6:6 don’t get airtime in churches like the easier to preach passages do. In my book, Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve Never Been Told, I detail all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your preacher has left behind. By hearing everything the Bible has to say, including the parts that tend to make a believer cringe, we develop a deeper understanding of what the Bible is all about.
It’s not just the pleasant verses heard on Sunday. It’s not just Jesus talking about loving others. It can be amusingly outdated, disturbingly violent, stunningly unholy, and at times absolutely contradictory.
For example, the best contradiction to Jesus’ warning to only pray indoors comes from the New Testament:
I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing. —1 Timothy 2:8
So maybe we should show some understanding to Tebowers around the world. There’s a chance they’re just taking a little time out in silent reflection to try to make sense of the many contradictory, confusing, and comical commands found within the pages of their very own Good Book.
* The passage from Luke 14:26 in the photo above reads — “And turning round, Jesus said to them, ‘If any man comes to me and has not hate for his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even for his life, he may not be my disciple.’”