As the winter months of 2011 ramped up, so too did a phenomenon commonly known as "Tebowmania"-the frenzy of fandom surrounding the winsome, humble, and overtly Christian Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. It was the Molotov cocktail of outspoken orthodox Christ-following and eye-catching unorthodox football success that exploded the furor over Tebow. Christians went bonkers in support of the man and anti-Christians took every opportunity to make "God is a Broncos fan" jokes and other disparaging remarks.
Now, in these winter doldrums, another phenomenon has arisen: "Linsanity." Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American, Harvard grad, and undrafted upstart point guard for the New York Knicks has generated his own frenzy through unprecedented success on the basketball court. His unusual backstory and out-of-nowhere ascension to stardom have captivated NBA fans everywhere. He is also an outspoken Christian with a beautiful testimony of God's work in his life.
While Lin has yet to generate the same vitriol that Tebow did, and while only time will tell if these athletes will be long-term successes, there is a very present question their popularity raises. How are Christians to respond to the athletes and the furor over them?
First of all, believers should be prudent. With age comes wisdom, but these are young men. They are under enormous pressure spiritually, professionally, and morally. They are sinners, like you and me. We must be careful not to add to the pressure and burden placed upon them by trying to make them cultural religious icons. Idolizing any man is sinful and unwise and is sure to disappoint.
Next, Christians should be prayerful for all the reasons I just listed. The temptations faced by a newly minted, flush, professional sports star are enormous. They do publicly represent Jesus, and if they fall it hurts His name (which is a much bigger deal than disappointing all of us fans). So pray that that their faithfulness would be unfaltering and continual.
Finally, be a fan. Both Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin are great stories, not because they're Christians, but because of their successes on the field and on the court. With unorthodox methods and unusual means they have achieved the highest professional level possible. That is to be cheered all by itself. Watching the skills they exhibit is fun. And lest we forget, every jaw-dropping feat, every touchdown run or buzzer-beating jumper is a reflection of God's glory as Creator.
We ought not idolize or celebritize any person. But it is only natural to be intrigued and excited by such unique athletes. Only let us remember the Creator of these athletes when we watch them play and let us remember that they, like us, need daily grace from that very Creator.