As a bunch of my girlfriends were together the other night watching The Bachelor (another post in and of itself), the conversation turned to what most girls talk about when they get together.
Ok, so maybe that's not normal except for when there's a hottie that plays for our team. There were mixed feelings about Tim Tebow, but the general consensus was that he's seemingly a good guy. I don't think anyone could argue that. When I saw a couple of the girls later in the week, we confessed to continuing to flush out our thoughts on the subject, and while we seemed to reach different conclusions, we all thought the process important.
Yes, I can already see the eye rolls at this point, paired with, "Oh so this is what stay-at-home moms do all day. Think about Tim Tebow."
Uhhh, that and work out.
This conversation is about so much more than Tim Tebow, but how I evaluate the relationship between following Jesus and our celebrity-obsessed culture. Is Jesus truly being glorified by a person thanking his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whenever there's a camera on him? Are we supposed to use our positions, whatever they may be, as a platform for Jesus?
While I may disagree with Tebow on these things, I don't think they're the right questions anyway. I have no control over what Tim Tebow says or doesn't say, but if I'm going to pass judgement, I should start with myself. I'm part of a culture that gives a guy that plays football for a living such an influential voice.
I read parts of a book recently where the author was trying to convince me that Jesus was cool, and I'd be cool if I followed him. In this author's defense, he was trying to say that chasing after all the things that people get trapped by- money, fame, power- is not the "cool" way to live. I think he missed the boat though. Following Jesus is not forming a subculture that becomes the "new cool." I wonder if this is one of those blind spots in Western Christianity that the rest of the Church would look at and shake their heads. Inadvertently or not, we tend to elevate success and comfort in the American evangelical church. We genuinely want people to come to know Jesus, but do we want our comfortable, safe lives to be interrupted? We want people to believe that life is better because of Jesus, we just sometimes believe that blessings come through success, instead of what Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount. Celebrity Christians give us a way to show people that following Jesus is for winners because we all want to be winners. Heroes of American evangelicalism are people in the public eye that thank Jesus for their talents because if we're honest, we want a safe God that doesn't expect anything more than that from us. At least that's where I often find myself.
We have contributed to the caricature that has been painted of Tim Tebow as the hero that glorifies God most with his acknowledging Jesus after football games. In the age of the one-liner gospel, I disagree with Rick Warren, who just tweeted this morning, "I'm for anything that gets the media talking about John 3:16." Not if it perverts the gospel and makes it into something that equates believing on Jesus with success on the football field. The context in which we talk about Jesus matters. We root for celebrities and people in power that are on "Team Jesus" as if it will increase God's credibility to those that might consider turning to Christ. As if he needs an endorsement. We want to make Jesus what's in. I mean, if Justin Bieber tatoos his calf with a picture of Jesus and says he loves God, then I will take up my cross and wear a Jesus bracelet. Until the next fad comes along. We get all excited when celebrities are vocal about their faith, but it seems to me that this isn't how Jesus would respond if he found out that some famous dude was following him.
We tend to forget what Jesus looked like while walking this earth and what actions most glorified his Father. He wasn't born in a palace and never aspired to reign from one. He chose to spend the bulk of his time with fishermen and average people. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He didn't try to make his way into influential circles. He could have aligned himself with powerful leaders, but instead rejected pairing with those in power in order to make his message known because the kingdom of God was not about the powers of this world. It was about glorifying God through weakness, not strength or status. Jesus died a criminal's death yet God's greatest triumph came through this very act. We see over and over again in the gospels as well as through the life of Paul and the apostles that the kingdom of God was subversive. The first followers of Christ didn't rise to powerful positions within culture to attractively lead people to God. Scripture repeatedly talks of the power of God made known through our weakness. It highlights His strength. Is it wrong for a Christian to be in a powerful position? No, but we are wrong as soon as we start looking at them as better because of their position or judging them for their motives in being there.
We need to stop exalting or judging Tim Tebow and start looking at how we contribute to a culture that finds it's worth in endorsements and status, instead of in values of the kingdom of God.