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Tim Tebow and the courage of conviction

A Christian Science perspective.

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It is Sunday, December 11, and the Denver Broncos have just defeated the Chicago Bears in the latest of a series of improbable comebacks. In the joyous tumult after the game, a sideline reporter finds quarterback Tim Tebow, and an entire nation knows what is coming next.

In answer to the reporter’s question, the first words out of Mr. Tebow’s mouth are, “I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

For the reporter, and surely much of the audience, it is an awkward moment. Much of America is still not sure what it thinks about public displays of religious affection, but its views of Tebow are much less ambiguous. “Enough already!” might be among the most charitable reactions to Tebow’s apparent refusal to discuss even the weather without thanking his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Even within the Christian community, Tebow’s example evokes strong and opposing opinions. Is he obeying Jesus’ demand that we be a light to the world, or is his profession of faith too showy, considering Jesus commanded his followers to go into their closets to pray?

To be sure, Christian Science is rarely connected with such open and unsolicited proclamations of faith. The test of the Christian Scientist’s faith, founder Mary Baker Eddy repeatedly said, is healing as Jesus and the disciples did. “Faith without works is dead,” she exhorted, quoting James 2:20.

Yet, by all appearances, there is something more to Tebow than the mere expression of his faith, and it is this quality that, perhaps, holds lessons for Christian Scientists – indeed, for Christians of any denomination. Setting aside theological differences for a moment, we would be wise to ask ourselves: Do we believe as strongly in Christ Jesus’ life and works as Tebow professes?

Jesus yearned to have us believe his example. Almost imploringly, he requested his disciples at the Last Supper, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). Mrs. Eddy lived her life in complete obedience to Jesus’ teachings and to the Scriptures because of her belief – indeed, her understanding – that their promises must be categorical. When temptations of lack or pain or evil come, do we “count it all joy,” as James counseled us, while we turn our thoughts to God for healing? Do we accept with childlike humility that the trying of our faith is the means by which we will be glorified – through which we will see ourselves in God’s own image – “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (see James 1:2-4)?

Jesus asked his followers to sell all they had for the pearl of great price. And whatever you think of Tebow’s specific theology, he does appear to believe with such fierce humility that nothing can dissuade him from proclaiming it – not ridicule, or hatred, or apathy. “My relationship with Jesus Christ ... is the most important thing in my life, so every opportunity I have to tell him I love him ... I’m going to take that opportunity,” he told one critic. What Christian cannot find an example worth emulating in such a love for Jesus Christ?

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It is sometimes too easy to join those who scoff at a faith not their own. To the jaded ear, the thunderings of a more evangelical tradition can seem like a sign of those who have “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Sometimes they might be. But, if earnest, they also can wake us up to our own need of honest zeal, our own need of radical faith – to the Christian necessity to believe.

Peter once said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68, 69). Do we believe him? Would we risk everything to proclaim it, even though the material world cannot fathom it and might even mock it? Tim Tebow would.

Believe the promises of Scripture, and let that unshakable faith be the seed of a deeper understanding of God’s glorious nature. It will grow into a fuller and more profound life.

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