Making fun of Tim Tebow for his on-field performances is one thing, but piling on the Broncos quarterback when it comes to his outward displays of Christianity is another.
For the second week in a row, Tebow took taunting from rival fans. Oakland Raiders’ fans held signs that read “Welcome to Hell,” directed at Tebow during the pre-game warm-ups.
Last week, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch mocked Tebow’s prayer pose, which became an internet craze known as Tebowing, after sacking the quarterback in the second quarter.
After I posted a blog about the “Tebowing” phenomenon, I was contacted by ESPN columnist Jemele Hill. She interviewed me about Stephen Tulloch openly mocking Tebow’s prayer pose. Since I had written about Tebow in my recent Sports In Focus article for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she wondered what I thought about him being ridiculed for his faith.
She concluded her column by saying, “Prayer is a sacred component of any religion. Making fun of someone else’s spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don’t have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect.”
Thankfully, she wasn’t the only sportswriter that opposes mocking someone’s faith.
AOL FanHouse columnist David Whitley wrote, “I believe Tulloch wasn’t trying to mock God. But this wasn’t your garden-variety NFL taunt. Unlike Ray Lewis’ pregame dance, kneeling in prayer is universally accepted as a religious expression. Perhaps the ultimate show of reverence and humility.”
Being mocked for one’s faith is nothing new. In fact, the best-known evidence of this was Jesus being mocked at the cross.
“And the soldiers led him away inside the palace, and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16-20)
While many sermons and Bible writers discuss the physical suffering in this passage, it is the ridicule of Jesus that I want to focus on. The crucifiers saw Jesus as a joke. In fact, historians tells us that one of the things that people did in that day was taunt those who were mentally deficient. They teased and they mocked those who were considered the “village idiots.”
The soldiers who mocked Jesus treated him as the village idiot, a lunatic who in a deluded way thinks himself to be a King and whom the Jews also try to pass off as some threat to Caesar.
So how should Christian athletes respond when they are mocked or persecuted for their faith? While persecution is not something we should pursue, when evil is spoke against you for Christ’s sake, realize that it carries with it the blessing of God. Matthew 5:11 teaches, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” In fact, the next verse teaches there will be a great reward in heaven for those who are persecuted in this way.
Mocking or taunting is nothing new in sports or life. Make it your goal to glorify God when you score a touchdown or when you’re mocked for your faith. Nothing pleases the Lord more than an athlete or coach who desires to please Him with their attitude and actions regardless of the circumstances.
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1. Would Tebow have been mocked if he believed in a different religion? Why or why not?
2. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch said he was only making fun of “Tebowing.” He said, “Have a sense of humor,” Tulloch tweeted. “I wasn’t mocking GOD.” How would you respond to him with a tweet?
3. Why is Christianity mocked or ridiculed so much in our society? For example, a crucifix in a bottle of urine is displayed as art and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.
4. Should Christian athletes ever mock or taunt opponents? Why or why not?
5. Tim Tebow seems to be ridiculed more than most athletes. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
6. How can you support someone who is showing respect for the Lord on the field/court and enduring persecution?
7. Describe the different ways Jesus was mocked. Which of the acts do you think is more disrespectful? Why?
8. Discuss how God can turn bad circumstances into spiritual victory. How was this true in the persecution of the early church? (Acts 11:19-21)
Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986 He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com). He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children.
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