Recently, an article was published which discussed Tim Tebow’s boldness in discussing his love for Christ. The columnist, from The Arizona Republic, interviewed Kurt Warner, who is no stranger to declaring his own faith to the fans of the NFL. Warner’s advice for Tebow: “Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you’re living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.” He goes on to say, “The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live. When you speak and represent the person of Jesus Christ in all actions of your life, people are drawn to that. You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.” Dan Bickley, the author, concludes his article, “It wasn’t about words. It was words in action, the kind that speak volumes.”
I understand what Warner is saying, and I agree that deeds can leave a profound impact on others. Throughout Scripture, we can see the importance of deeds. Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount still ring true for us, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).” Christians are called to “walk the talk” of their faith, no doubt.
But I disagree with Warner when he prioritizes actions over the verbal proclamation of the gospel, even though he says that words can follow the actions. We do not see the apostle Paul quietly living out his faith for a period of time before boldly proclaiming the forgiveness that is found in Christ. No, cities could hear that dude preaching before he even entered into the city gates. He certainly let his faith speak through actions, but he, more importantly, let his faith speak through words.
God has ordained that He would save a people from all nations, tribes, and tongues through the verbal proclamation of the gospel. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching (Rom. 10:14)?” We are a people of the Word, and we are a people of words. This is the will of God.
Christians are called to testify to God’s grace through a changed life. This means changed behaviors, and this means changed words. Will people always like those words? Absolutely not. If Tebow continues his bold speech, will people continue to hate him? Probably so. What did Paul’s boldness earn him?
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (2 Cor. 11:24-27).
I’m not trying to equate Tebow with the apostle Paul, but in one sense, I am because Paul, like all Christians, was an ambassador for Christ. He was called to speak out as Jesus’ messenger, just like we are called to do.
Tebow’s career in the NFL might be short-lived, but I do applaud him for how quick he is to speak of the love of Christ. He’s using his career and skills to glorify God. We would be wise to do the same.
It is about words. It is words and actions, the kind that speak volumes.
(Update: You can also read Jared Wilson’s thoughts on the situation here.)