Tim Tebow vs. Joe Christian

It is not often that a football player’s social influence is felt outside the bounds of the sporting world, but this holiday season, the popularity and notoriety of young Saint Tim have virtually eclipsed those of old Saint Nick.

from timtebow.com

The fledgling Denver quarterback may have led the struggling Broncos on a six-game winning streak in recent weeks, but that’s not the real story.

[This video is so very worth ten minutes of your time.]

See, Tim Tebow is a Christian.  But not just in the way that most other Christian NFL players are Christians.  Tim Tebow is actively and openly glorifying God through the platform of professional football.  In other words, he’s a Christian who happens to be an NFL player–not the other way around.  As a result, he is unabashedly outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ and his commitment to making Him the number one priority in his life.

And not many folks are okay with that.

In recent weeks, Tebow has been pelted, pummeled, and pounded with criticism for his insistence on praising God as the Source of every success and for his refusal to treat his faith as anything less than it is: the single most important and influential factor in his life.  Folks in every imaginable media outlet have ridiculed him for his “pretentious” piety and his “quaint” beliefs, and they have taken offense at his displays of religiosity in the “public sphere.”  Religion is strictly a private matter, so they claim, and thus it has no right to rear its holier-than-thou head on the football field or on television.  Even many Christians–including several current and former NFL players who are self-identified believers–have come out in opposition to the zealot’s rabid fanaticism for Jesus Christ.

The most recent crack at Tebow came from Saturday Night Live, in a scene in the Broncos locker room where even Jesus Himself pokes fun at Tebow for being a religious nutcase.  There is certainly no entertainment to be had in the sketch, but for the purpose of illustrating the world’s reaction to Tebow–which the clip does most excellently–you can watch it here.

Of course, there is also a large subset of Christians who praise Tebow’s courage and commitment to the cross of Christ, admiring his testimony and wishing he could meet their daughters.

Stud Muffin

And who can blame them? He takes after his Father, after all. (*ba-dum PSHH!*)

I myself am also quite glad for the strong witness of my Christian brother.  I want to emphasize this, because what I’m about to say about Tebow could perhaps be misinterpreted as an assertion to the contrary.  So, to reiterate, I think Tim Tebow is an admirable man of God, and I think his approach to life as a Christian sports celebrity is spot-on.

I just think that Joe Christian could do it too.  Being Tim Tebow is easy, because it’s really hard.

By way of roundabout explanation, allow me to tell you about the two times in my life when I was the most obedient, the most humble, the most Christlike I’ve ever been.

The first was during my summer as a counselor at Pine Valley Bible Camp, a ministry dedicated to reaching the youth of inner-city Pittsburgh with the good news of Jesus Christ.  Spending 24 hours a day chasing, teaching, entertaining, and loving those profoundly broken children from a profoundly broken culture was the greatest physical and emotional challenge of my life.  But in the face of so great a challenge–the task of being completely selfless for days on end–I discovered the immeasurable depth of God’s equipping power.  By His grace, I was enabled to sacrifice myself wholeheartedly for the wellbeing of some truly devilish young people.  And I experienced the joy of following in the footsteps of Christ, of loving “not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18).

The second came the following summer when I took a temp job as a laborer in a local warehouse.  Due to the unwieldy size and shape of our product, all the laborers worked in pairs; and though there were some lovely folks working in that warehouse, my partner was not one of them.  We soon discovered that our work ethics were polar opposites: I wanted to work hard out of respect for the company and for God, and he wanted to do as little work as possible and forge the inventory paperwork so as not to get found out.  Well, eventually my honest paperwork naturally exposed his dishonest paperwork, he got yelled at by the bosses, and our relationship went sour.  Soon I was working ten hours a day with a man who hated my guts, constantly ridiculed me for doing the job rightly, and actively sought to make my days miserable and cause me to “break character” from my attitude of Christian servanthood and persistent cheerfulness.  It was then, when I saw through the darkness’ masquerade as light and realized its true nature–it was then that I shone brightest for God.  Every day was a new opportunity to put on Christ–to articulate His truth at every challenge and live out His love at every moment.

Right now, Tim Tebow’s life is like my summer in that warehouse.  Everywhere he goes, he can see the world watching and waiting for a chance to mock his God the moment he slips.  There is no ambiguity in his situation and no hiding out; he is constantly in the public eye, and people are judging Christ by watching his life.  Every day he is slapped in the face with this reality.

Tim Tebow knows what is on the line.  And so he rises to the occasion.

Do we?

“Jordan, my life isn’t like Tim Tebow’s life.  I hardly get any outright opposition to my Christianity.”  Nor is mine, Joe, and nor do I.  If you’re like me, you feel like your world is full of small, gray issues–not big, black-and-white ones like Tebow.  But that is not a good thing.  In fact, it’s an enormous problem.  The armor of God is not for diplomats, and it’s not for spectators. It’s for warriors.  I am here to tell you that regardless of your particular circumstances, your personality, or your focus, your life is war.  Your calling is to make war on the sin and injustice and evil in your life.

And in order to make war, you have to declare war.  (Have you? Really?  The battle lines will not be drawn up for you.  The enemy thrives on deception and obscurity.)

And in order to declare war, you first have to wake up to the fact that the enemy is real, that it is not small and gray, that everything really is on the line.  This is immensely difficult, because it radically alters both the foundation and the trajectory of our lives.  As long as we see our lives as full of small gray issues, the Christianity with which we tackle them will be only a small gray Christianity.  This kind of Christianity is easy and comfortable because it doesn’t expose the opposition, and thus we don’t have to struggle with our neighbors and our families and our own wretched flesh telling us to shut up and back down and just accept disobedience.

Tim Tebow didn’t step onto the national stage and demand that everyone take notice of his piety.  He simply committed to living a life of obedience to Christ, which created opportunities to talk about Christ (and a concurrent desire to talk about Christ), which brought opposition.  This is an unbreakable chain of consequence.  You cannot be a Christian without embracing the first link, and the others follow naturally from it.  So how is it that most of us don’t seem to have those opportunities to witness to Christ and don’t seem to engender much opposition because of Christ?  The only real reason can be that we aren’t really committed to obeying Christ.

If you are afraid of everything that obedience might bring–if you don’t feel equal to the task–cheer up; you aren’t.  But it doesn’t matter one bit.  The Holy Spirit Who strengthens and counsels Tim Tebow is the same Holy Spirit Who will strengthen and counsel you.

You know, Jesus wrote a blog post just like this one once, except he spoke it out loud and it only took him two sentences:

“In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


Know Thyself

A little ways down this post is a “self-assessment statement” I was required to prepare last month for my Leadership class.  At the beginning of the semester, every student in the class was tasked with completing four personal inventories:

1.) The DiSC Personal Profile System (website here)
2.) Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 (website here)
3.) Myers-Briggs typology test (free to take online here)
4.) Gift Test (free to take online here)

Subsequently, we were asked to “analyze the various personality profiles and explain how your specific personality traits and gifts will affect your leadership in the following areas: (1) your personal life; (2) your ministry: leadership and interactions with others, church leaders, congregants, management, etc.; and (3) your marriage and family.”

Now, you may rightly ask:  Why would I put something so intimate and Jordan-centric on my blog dedicated to Christ and His Church?  Well, regarding the former, I don’t mind anybody knowing what makes me tick.  After all, I’ve always been a big advocate of transparency (hey look, you can read about that below!).  Regarding the latter, it turns out that my professor isn’t crazy and wasn’t wasting my time!  Understanding the contours of one’s design and development can be incredibly valuable for life in general and, more importantly, for one’s life and ministry in the Church.  The unity to which Christ Himself urges believers must necessarily involve communication and cooperation, both of which are strengthened by taking the time to understand and value each another’s unique internal makeup–as well as our own.

Thus, it is my hope that sharing some of my personal reflections might catalyze the whole lot of us toward a deeper appreciation of our brotherhood in Christ and an ever wiser approach toward accomplishing our Christian mission together.

Self-Assessment Statement

If we Reformed Christians profess God’s perfect sovereignty and His divine coordination of all reality and every event, then we must also trust that the Lord has provided each of us with the personality and gifts which He has planned for our benefit and His glory.  In the same way that the body is made of many parts, each with its own purposes and methods, so the church is composed of many personalities, each with its own functions and benefits.  It is a great blessing for one to examine his personality and discover his specific contributions to the church, being all the while thankful for the contrasting personalities of his brothers and sisters and careful not to presume superiority over them as if his outfit of traits were “the best.”

Such humility does not come easily to me as a “perfectionist”—the title awarded me by the DiSC profile test, and one with which I undeniably accord.  Perfectionism, with its obsessive focus on achieving right outcomes with precision, accuracy, certainty, and sustainability, can hardly endorse the validity of any other personality but perfectionism; it is naturally self-affirming and, furthermore, is far too quick to consider such matters as zero-sum scenarios.  So it is my perpetual struggle not to dismiss my fellow man simply on the basis that his personality is not the same personality which within me calls itself perfect.  Of course, perfectionism will be a harsh taskmaster for both its bearer and his associates if not tempered by frequent reality checks and heavy doses of grace.  Perhaps the extroverted socialite is less prone to perfectionism because he is in touch with more lives, or perhaps simply because he spends less time privately crafting his intellectual architecture; but as a “mastermind” (i.e. a Myers-Briggs INTJ), my external reticence habitually lures me into solitude, where I am free to drown in thought.

My relational life as an INTJ consists more in depth (a.k.a. “quality”) than in breadth (a.k.a. “quantity”).  All things being equal, I am just as content to whistle my way through the day and generally “mind my own business” as I am to exchange insubstantial pleasantries with those in whom I have not already developed a specific interest.  Generally speaking, perfectionism discourages change of almost any sort, at least until a serious flaw in one’s current trajectory is convincingly demonstrated, and this serves most often simply to reinforce the relational status quo of a situation.   Of course, my genuine social interests are often subject to diminution by my acute self-consciousness, which is itself derived from my self-perceived lack of social skills—skills which I fail to develop because of my timidity due to acute self-consciousness.  Here lies the great vicious circle of introversion.  However, those who penetrate the outer layer of apparent indifference and establish significant interaction receive a royal welcome into the introvert’s life and an abundant recurring offering of his time, energy, and affections.  Though the emotional dimension of my attachments to loved ones may not manifest externally with as much vividness or fanfare as others’, my passion and care for them burns ever brightly in my heart.  Overall, the mastermind is paradigmatic of the principle of relational inertia: disregarding external forces, a relationship at rest (i.e. uninitiated) will tend to stay at rest, and a relationship in motion (i.e. invested) will tend to stay in motion.

While certainly affirming and extending many of the descriptions outlined above, Clifton’s Strengths Finder also brought new and even unexpected facets of my personality to light.  Taken together, my Strength of Belief, Strength of Connectedness, Strength of Intellection, and Strength of Responsibility all nicely restate both the values and the burdens of the perfectionist mastermind: strong ideas and convictions which necessitate strictly correct living.  The big twist comes with my supposed Strength of Adaptability, which initially seems to indicate either an error in the test results or a personality split of schizophrenic proportions.  Though somewhat paradoxical, I can affirm my strength in adapting to almost any circumstance, system, or practice (so long as it does not infringe upon my bedrock beliefs and their direct outworking).  This personality streak of easygoing adaptation can likely be traced to the substantial influence of Rich Mullins’ music and writings on my life, and its cohabitation with perfectionism brings no small amount of internal tension.  Generally, I seek to hold in open hands everything which is not Truth, meaning that even my perfectionistic plans and goals must be placed at God’s disposal with which to do or to do away.

In fact, my Strength of Adaptability can be neatly tied to my spiritual gift as a “giver”; it follows from the open-hands mentality that my resources can and must be made available to others whenever they have need.  If this giving involves personal sacrifice, then I will adapt to my new situation and make it work.  My other two strong gifts are as “perceiver” and “teacher,” whereby I am afforded a keenness of insight and a desire to understand and proclaim the truth, respectively.  Equally important to note in the area of spiritual gifts are the categories in which I scored lowest—namely, mercy and encouragement.  Mercy is perhaps the most necessary counterforce to perfectionism in one’s life, and unfortunately, it is absurdly difficult for the perfectionist to generate within himself—both for himself and for others.  Weakness in the area of encouragement, I believe, can be traced back to the intellectual introvert’s more rational and propositional paradigm for interpreting and engaging reality, as opposed to the more emotional approach to counseling and affirmation which most recipients of encouragement desire.

Though the exact specifications of my call to ministry are yet to be revealed, I know that I will need to employ my God-given strengths and supplement my God-given weaknesses in whatever role He has ordained for me.  My social reticence does not make me one to demand authority over others; so long as my boss(es) lead(s) in such a manner and direction that do not compromise my core values, I have traditionally been quite happy to assume less authoritative (though not unimportant) roles within organizations.  However, my desire is to lead as a preaching pastor.  Within this context, my tendency would be toward straightforwardness from the pulpit and diplomacy in personal interactions with congregants and with the other church leaders.  My passion for ensuring quality outcomes—particularly in the areas of preaching and teaching—would certainly need to be balanced by constant appeals to God’s grace and providence, by which He makes any such successes possible and by which He retains and sustains us when we fall short.  My deep-seated desire that people’s ideas, words, and actions be always based on rationality would no doubt be a constant bother to me as one of the most unrealistic expectations possible for a church body.  It would also be difficult for me to keep my hands out of every last activity and to completely delegate their oversight to people I do not already supremely trust.  Working with a team of elders and leaders who understand and value my perspective but who have a variety of their own perspectives would be essential.

Regarding the implications of my personality type and spiritual gifts for my marriage and family, I foresee a number of potential blessings and potential struggles should the Lord one day bless me with such companionship and offspring.  The depth of affection and interaction I pursue with loved ones as well as my fierce loyalty to them will ideally reach their zenith in my spousal relationship.  My strength in consistency and in willingness to sacrifice myself will likely be accompanied by weakness in being too outcome-focused and struggling to minister directly to my wife’s emotions.  As far as children are concerned, my strengths and weaknesses will both likely revolve around my passion for educating and catechizing them.  I must be faithful to do so without diminishing the importance of non-didactic aspects of relationship and fatherhood.  I must learn to trust and delegate parental duties to my wife without needing to have my fingers in every pie.  Most importantly, I must learn to trust that the Lord’s sovereign plan will not fail in their lives even if its unfolding brings about outcomes that I do not intend for them.  Even with my keen sense of personal responsibility, the ultimate wellbeing of my family must be held in open hands.