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Hodges: Still on God's team, Tebow is doing his Christian duty

Published May 10, 2013 1:42 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has been released from the New York Jets.

With his future in professional sports uncertain, the Heisman Trophy winner tweeted a biblical passage from Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths straight."

In a major-league sport frequently characterized by sex and self-indulgence, the 25-year-old is a role model for many young people. He stands out not only because of his good behavior but also because he openly professes his faith. Realizing he has a platform to reach millions of people, Tebow has used his fame to share the gospel with the masses.

After touchdowns, Tebow unashamedly kneels in prayer, an act now known as "Tebowing." He writes biblical verses on his cheeks for games and makes it a habit of starting interviews by thanking "first and foremost, my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ."

He preaches in prisons and churches and delivered an Easter sermon last year in Texas, to a crowd of almost 20,000.

Publicly confessing his faith, however, has made him a target for criticism. Many fans and players do not see a football game as an appropriate venue to proselytize.

Fearing scrutiny, Christians sometimes shy away from proselytizing, choosing instead to just being "a good example." While living a moral life is important, it cannot be the sole strategy for sharing one's faith since many nonbelievers also strive to be good and do good. At some point, an unambiguous connection must be made between the Christian's morality and their love for God. Furthermore, the Bible commands Christ's followers to share the gospel.

TeBow has been criticized by some evangelicals for not lending his voice to lightning-rod issues. In 2010, however, he appeared in a Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial with his mother in which she recalls choosing to carry her life-threatening pregnancy to term and giving birth to her "miracle" baby, Timmy. The ad sparked controversy and drew opposition from abortion-rights groups.

Tebow often speaks of making the "dash" on a tombstone — the time between one's birth and death — mean something. In his short NFL career, the young athlete has affected many people with his charity work and his positive message. In the sports universe, he is celebrated for his athletic achievements. In the Christian world, he is saluted as a contemporary evangelist who used his football stage to champion the faith.

Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at coreyjhodges@comcast.net.