Unless you only listen to public radio, you’ve probably heard of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. Tebowmania hit last fall as Tim Tebow, a quarterback for the Denver Broncos, led his team to 6 straight victories in the NFL and a playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jeremy Lin is the latest sports sensation as “Linsanity” is taking over the NBA. Lin plays for the New York Knicks and has put up some huge numbers in the last 10 days while leading his team at this time to 7 straight victories. He was on the verge of getting cut from his 3rd NBA team in a year when he exploded on the scene last week. So what has made Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin a cultural sensation? There’s a lot of things that the talking heads in the sports world are attributing it to, but one of the main factors is that both Tebow and Lin are outspoken about their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Both men are extremely humble and hard-working which has earned them the respect of their teammates as well. There are a lot of professional Christian athletes out there, but the celebrity meter has boiled over with these guys because they are defying the odds and leading their teams to, most importantly, win.
Now what I’m about to say may shock you. It may even anger some of you, but we need to beware of going crazy over Tebowmania and Linsanity. In fact, we should be pretty cautious about looking up to these guys and putting them on such a high pedestal in our lives. Now hear me out. I love Tim Tebow. I bought his book and I read it at night to my kids. I might even buy a Tebow jersey for them. I love Jeremy Lin. The Knicks are my favorite NBA team and they’ve been dead in the league for years. I love it that these guys are not wasting their platform, but are unashamedly Christian to the media and within their team. They both, to our knowledge, have impeccable character, and are a great sports role model for our kids to look up to. So why should we be cautious?
I’m going to give you two numbers: 23 and 24. Those are the ages of Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow respectively. Both guys are young men who are less than a decade removed from their high school prom. We need to be very cautious about elevating these young men to a higher place of attention and affection than they should have in our lives. Unfortunately we live in a culture that worships celebrities. Celebrity-ism drives our media, and it’s very tempting for followers of Jesus to have a celebrity that’s in our camp, who believes what we believe and has the same standards that we have. In a way, it makes us feel validated amongst the cultural throng. Christians are used to being the nerds and the nobodies (at least I am), these guys are cool, athletic, good-looking and popular. Who wouldn’t love them?
Here’s my fear. One of these guys is going to have a “Peter” moment. You know what I mean. They say or do something that ends up embarrassing themselves and every Christian along with them. They are 23 and 24. I thank God that there were no cameras and microphones following me when I was that age, and I bet you are pretty happy about that as well. Every word that they say or write, and every place they go is going to be under a media microscope. Chances are one or both of them may trip up somewhere along the way. Who doesn’t? The problem is when you or I say something stupid or un-Christian, we might have to apologize to a couple of people. These guys would have to apologize to the world. We need to keep the proper perspective on both of these men and not get too caught up in the celebrity storm that is brewing around them.
So how should we handle Tebowmania and Linsanity and any other Christian celebrity that comes down the pike? Here are my thoughts:
1. Pray for these guys. I pray that they would guard their hearts from the temptations of the world. Pray that they don’t value popularity, riches, or pleasure more than Jesus. Pray that they would continue to hold up under the pressure to perform athletically and the pressure to represent Christ well. Pray that they would keep pointing people to Jesus as their true joy in life. There are two young men that we find in Scripture that had a public profile that started and finished well: Joseph and Daniel. I hope that these two men can be faithful like those two men were.
2. Remember that our hero is Jesus. I think that Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin would be the first to say, “Keep your eyes on Jesus!”. We have to avoid the temptation to elevate our affections for anyone over our love and worship of Jesus. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. Tim or Jeremy will never do anything that will compare to what Christ has already done for you. Jesus’ popularity fluctuates but His Word and His power never change, and it’s His gospel that saves souls.
3. Use your platform. What I love best about these guys is their humble attitude about themselves and the boldness that they have for Jesus. We can all learn from them about this. We all have a platform to tell people about Jesus. It may be at the kitchen table with our kids, at the cafeteria with our classmates, at the cafe on lunch break with our co-workers, or in the front yard with our neighbor. We all have a platform, they just differ in size. Here’s what we have to remember: if we are not faithful to share Jesus on the smaller platforms, then we will not be faithful to do it on the larger ones. We will probably never have cameras or microphones following any of us around, but we need to be as diligent and as excited to tell people about Jesus as these two guys are.
I hope that Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin have long careers in the sports world. They are fun to watch and even more fun to root for. I thank God that my kids have a good sports role model to look up to, but at the end of the day, it’s Jesus that I follow and love above all else. It’s Jesus that I’m pointing my children to emulate and live for. I hope that we’ll keep everything in proper perspective – appreciate and pray for these guys, and worship Jesus.