Some are calling it the story of the year and it’s only January. It’s the perfect human interest story. It has mystery, intrigue, deception, confusion, and a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up quality to it. It’s the fascinating story of Manti Te’0, the superstar college athlete and his fake, dead girlfriend. I’m not sure if you’ve read a lot about it, but I’ve kept up with most of it. I’ve heard the scorn and the mockery on sports talk radio. I’ve read the different accounts and stories that have surrounded this young man and the hoax that made the word “catfishing” a normal word in our vocabulary in just 1 week. There’s a lot that I wrestle with when I find myself reflecting on this story. I don’t want to rehash the details and try to figure out who’s to blame. As a Christian, my mind wants to filter this story through the biblical grid of truth and hopefully learn something from this current event.
The biggest thing that I am taking away from this right now is how much I, as a Christian, am just like Manti Te’o. The crowds have mocked incessantly how a young man could have fallen in love with a woman who he had never met in person. In most people’s eyes, they just can’t fathom a man having feelings for a woman whom he had never seen with his eyes or touched with his hands. I found myself shaking my head like everyone else, until a conversation I had with my dad on Saturday night. He pointed out that we as Christians love a Savior that we have never touched or seen. In fact, we have never even heard his audible voice. Yet we love Jesus. To those who are born again, Jesus is the most real person we have ever met. The love we have experienced by God is greater than any mortal that we can ever see or hear or touch.
I’m reminded of the apostle Peter’s words when he says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” (1 Peter 1:8). The bond that we have with Jesus is real because of our faith. Have you ever thought about how you can love and have devotion for a God that you’ve never seen? Paul is right when he writes his letter to the Corinthian church and says that when we tell people about Jesus, to the world, it sounds “foolish”.
But in the midst of the world’s chorus of disdain and mockery for love based on faith alone, we don’t need to respond defensively. God makes it a point to mention and proclaim his “invisibility”. Check out these verses:
Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Colossians 1:15 – He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
1 Timothy 1:17 – To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 11:27 – By faith he (speaking of Moses) left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
The story of Manti Te’o is one that reminds me that the world will always think that the gospel is foolish. I can’t try to put make-up on the gospel to make it more attractive. At its root, the gospel call is one that requires faith, and faith that is born of God and not of man. “Unless man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3),” Jesus said to Nicodemus.
We need to stop being bashful about loving this invisible God. Because the love that is experienced by those who have given their lives to Christ is alive and real. What we proclaim and offer to a dead and dying world is the most tangible life they can ever experience. I love how the apostle John begins his first epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.”