I’d like to draw your attention to two articles recently shared on the Wall Street Journal’s online site that deal with the recent publicity about Tim Tebow, the forthrightly Christian quarterback for the Denver Broncos pro football team.
The first article, Does God Care Who Wins Football Games?, is by Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton is a former pro football quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, and is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL that never won a Super Bowl. He puts a wonderfully positive spin on what has been happening this season with the attention that Tim Tebow and his outspoken Christian faith has received. That Tim Tebow finds reason to praise God in a touchdown pass is wonderful; that he finds time and joy in visiting death row inmates and sharing the gospel with them should encourage every believer in Christ.
The second article, The Secrets of Tebow Hatred, by the conservative Jewish commentator Michael Medved, has some more sobering thoughts. It reminds us that if we follow Christ, we may attract envy and hatred from others, especially if we show Christlike purity in our lives, and remain faithful to him even under intense scrutiny. In some people it comes down to Schadenfreude – the desire to see an upstanding, virtuous person fall, and to gloat over that person’s misfortune, especially if that person seems too good to be true. Medved mentions the discomfort that someone who seems to have so much going for him can do to make people who feel their imperfections and limitations more strongly.
This kind of schadenfreude is something that believers also need to be aware of as they live and work in this world. Certainly it’s possible for some believers to have been blessed with physical and intellectual capabilities that others do not have, just as some receive adversities. Certainly it is possible for some believers to excel and to prosper in this world, especially in the Western world, and especially if they work hard and act with financial wisdom, and escape such financially ruinous situations as divorce and addiction. But just as certainly, we need to make sure that this kind of Schadenfreude does not infiltrate our churches and our relationships with other believers. And here’s why.
If I am a believer in Christ, Tim Tebow and I are both members of the body of Christ. His prosperity is in some way mine also, and any scorn or rejection heaped on him is mine also.
It was the same way also with the scorn and hatred that came to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as part of the Don Imus controversy. I listened to the coach and the women on that team express their strong Christian convictions as the controversy heightened, and I realized that what they experienced affected me in some way also.
So this also applies to the brothers and sisters in Christ in our church fellowships. What they go through in either blessing or suffering is in some way that of us all. And this is a reason why when there are social competitions and jockeying for position, rivalries and guerilla wars in our churches, they are so cancerous, and why even those who are not directly involved are affected. And this is a reason why when something happens that signifies honest blessing to one of us, that it also blesses the rest of us. “And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer together. If one member is glorified, all the other members rejoice as well” (I Corinthians 12:26).