Tim Tebow. (Getty Images)Last week, news broke that Tim Tebow had accepted an invitation to speak at First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, a church whose pastor, Robert Jeffress, endorses a Biblically strict but socially controversial theology. On Thursday morning, Tebow had a change of heart, writing on Twitter:
"While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!"
The primary reason First Baptist Church draws controversy is because of Jeffress' views that all those not pursuing his particular brand of Christianity are destined for Hell, a group that includes not only non-Christians such as Jews and Muslims, but also other denominations such as Catholics, as well as Mormons.
Tebow above appears to endorse a more inclusive version of Christianity, speaking of "unconditional love" and reaching out to "all those needing a brighter day," not just those who follow certain dictates of the Bible.
Perhaps this is a result of Tebow deciding he didn't believe in Jeffress' brand of Christianity, and perhaps Tebow was advised of more earthly matters, that this wasn't the best kind of appearance for him to make. Regardless of the Biblical justifications of exclusion of nonbelievers, there are plenty of Tebow (and NFL) fans who fall into Jeffress' prescribed categories of the hellbound.
Whichever the reason for his cancellation, Tebow is fast approaching the point where he'll need to make more definitive stands on his own. There are plenty of people needing him to speak up for one reason or another; he'll need to decide how public to go with his own perspective on Christianity. He has the power and the potential to be an influential voice for his religion, but he'll need to decide how much of that religion he wishes to demonstrate.
In the short term, though, he's likely to be looking for a new job. (The Jets are said to be shopping him this weekend at the NFL Combine.) A little prayer might go a long way in that endeavor.
Update: Jeffress says that Tebow contacted him Wednesday night, and promised to return to the church once the current controversy dies down. Jeffress quoted Tebow as saying he needed to "lay low." Video of Jeffress' lines presented without further comment:
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