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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

Rooting For Tebow: Does Jesus Care Who Wins the Game?

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I have always liked Tim Tebow from his college days at Florida even as a passionate Georgia Bulldogs fan. Even while playing college at Florida, I discerned that Tebow was different. He writes Scriptures under his eyes. He quotes Proverbs in pregame pep talks. He thanks God at every opportunity. His last name became a verb: To "Tebow" means to take a knee in prayer regardless of what is going on around you. If I follow my spiritual inclinations that those who are humble and not haughty such as Tebow will find favor in God does that mean that this gesture will guarantee a win despite superior athleticism from another team? Did not David who was the least of his brethren defeat the mighty Goliath? Notice how it's okay for high-ego athletes to yell and gesture, "I'm number one; I'm the best; am I good or what?" They can dance and strut their stuff all they want.

But if high-character athletes give glory to God rather than to themselves, if they thank God rather than their genes, they get criticized.

Amazingly, believers are often the most uncomfortable with this kind of post-game confession of faith. We back off and button our lips or look embarrassed. Perhaps we believers don't want Jesus to take the blame the next time this guy plays lousy, or drops the winning touchdown pass. But it is probably more likely that we are turned off by the notion that the Lord of the universe, the Savior of all creation, is sitting down this Sunday watching a football game.

Does God have a favorite NFL team? Does Jesus root for special players? What do we do and say when a big, burly football player claims that Christ helped him win the big game or make the big play? Is there a Christian way to celebrate victory?

Right up front, let's agree that no, God doesn't have a favorite team and that Jesus really doesn't care who wins the big game. But our Lord and Savior does care about how the game is played; even more importantly, about how all our seemingly so important life-games are played. At all times, in all places, in all our "games," Christians are to play like Christians -- win or lose.

As found in the Gospel of Luke chapter four, Jesus reveals the four essential plays he is going to use as he will compete in the competitions of life. How is Jesus playing the "game"?

First, Jesus declares that he brings good news to "the poor." Second, he seeks the release of those bound in all types of captivity. Third, he offers new vision to those who have been living blind, healing for those who are wounded and diseased. Finally, he gives freedom to those who are oppressed.

These are the "plays" in Jesus' playbook, and they represent a radical departure from the conventional approach to the game.

After watching the big game this weekend, those of us not on one of the two opposing teams will go back to our normal Monday morning routines filled with work, school, family and running around. In each encounter we make with someone else during the day, we, too, will be coming face to face with the poor -- those who have little of the world's goods, or those who are poor in spirit. Or we will face the captive -- someone bound by habits, prejudice, guilt or despair. We will encounter the blind -- those who are physically blind as well as those who are spiritually unsighted. We will also find the oppressed -- those who are used and abused and those who are marginalized and forgotten. This is the genuine "big game" we are all engaged in every day -- the test of our Christian witness and spirit.

God is not keeping score to see if we "win" or "lose" the small skirmishes that we think occupy so much of our time and energy at work and at home. There is no divine scoreboard keeping track of the number of accounts we brought in, the number of A's we've received, or the skill with which we've managed to get through so much busy-ness at business.

But God is concerned with how we conduct ourselves in all our endeavors and in each encounter. Are we focused on the final score, on perfecting our own performance? Or are we able to shift our vision away from ourselves, open our playbook, and connect with the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed?

This is what Te-bowing means our submission in prayer manifested in how we treat our neighbor and our community.

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