Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jesus and Tim Tebow, Part 2

This is the second part of a series on life and faith, that was triggered by a recent segment I did on WMOX Radio about Tim Tebow. See part 1 here.

One of the questions that inevitably comes up in any discussion of public faith is this: why do people get offended when someone puts their faith on display? Why should it bother others that someone is unashamed about their faith? Why should others want him to shut up? Why do they care? He should be able to practice and express his faith in any way he wants! Why would someone get offended by that? Now, I think sometimes we misconstrue honest questions and legitimate concerns with offense. But I think there are times when non-believers in Jesus do get offended over how a person expresses their faith publicly. And if not offended, they often, at the very least, think it is over the top.

Before I go any further, I also think some non-believers might have legitimate concerns about the way they see people living out their faith in the public arena. Christians far too often don’t look very Christ-like, even when, and sometimes especially when, they’re professing to be with Jesus in the public eye. We are all too often prone to legalism and judgmentalism. And we must do better. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening with Tim Tebow. He’s in many ways been a role model for how to live for Jesus in the public eye. And for some, that is still offensive. So, what’s going on here? Why does this bother people so?

The answer to this question is actually pretty simple. And non-believers seem to get this much more than many believers do. I can’t believe we have missed this. But we need to get it. I’ve heard one too many people say, “I don’t see anything offensive at all about Christianity.” Let me make this clear. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Gospel of Jesus is incredibly offensive. The Apostle Paul talked about “the offense of the Cross.” (Galatians 5:11) He also says it is foolishness to unbelievers. Jesus told us that all men would hate us because we followed him. We need to understand that this is what we signed up for. If you became a Christian thinking that everyone would love you, and your friends would stay with you, and those who don’t believe would embrace you, and that you could say whatever you wanted to, and that people would smile and think, “That’s nice,” you were misled, or you misunderstood. That is not what this is about.

Christianity makes a radical claim that cannot be avoided. We tell the world that we have a corner on the truth of God. We say that God can only be found through the Jesus who was God from the beginning, and then put on flesh and walked the earth, before dying a bloody death for the sins of the world, and then raising himself from the grave. We tell people that Jesus demands their total allegiance, above home, above family, above friends, above country, above everything that they know and hold dear. We tell people that they are radically sinful, and have no chance except to allow God to fix them, without their help. It is offensive.. It is foolishness. It is obscene. It is radical. But it is also true, and it is also life. And far too often, because we’ve grown up in the Bible belt, and we’ve heard this story from the time we were in diapers, and we’ve lived lives of relative ease, we forget this. We forget how this message, time and again, has gotten people laughed at, and persecuted, and cast aside as idiots, and killed.

When Tim Tebow “Tebows,” when he takes his knee and bows his head, or when you pray, you are both doing more than a private act of worship. You are declaring your allegiance. You are telling the world that you hate the things it loves. You are telling the world that it is in rebellion against its creator, and you have joined the other side. Tim Tebow is making his allegiances clear, and those who are offended by it understand that. The question is whether or not we who are believers do. Do you realize what you have gotten yourself into? This is not a pizza party.

One other thing – what are we as believers to do when people are offended? Well, first of all, we should not return their offense with offense of our own. We should expect this. It should not offend us. We know that their only chance is what our only chance is – the ability of the Gospel to change our hearts. It’s likely that some of these people are our friends, or even our family. At the very worst, they are our enemies. And our Savior has given us only one command as to how we treat enemies. I hope you know what that is.

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