A little while ago, I came across this article on profootballtalk.com regarding Philadelphia Eagles (formerly USC) quarterback Matt Barkeley. In it, Mike Florio compares him to Tim Tebow.
But Matt Barkley, a former USC quarterback, is a devout Christian. He won’t, however, be vocal or demonstrative about it. Barkley tells Methuselah (a/k/a Larry King) in a Hulu.com sit down that the former Trojan shares the religious views of Tim Tebow.
“We have similar beliefs, and I’m very passionate about my faith,” Barkley said. “Maybe not as outspoken as Tim is, he’s a passionate guy. Maybe different in how I approach that. But I’m very faithful in multiple ways, both to my team now that I’m in Philadelphia and to my God and Jesus Christ.”
This particular writer, and I gather he’s probably not in the minority actually prefers Barkeley’s more less “demonstrative” approach to football and faith.
From time to time, we (or at least I) have criticized athletes who fly their flag of faith a little too aggressively and zealously and openly. And of course I end up being accused of hating Christians, even though I am one.
The many mixed signals in the thousands-year-old book to which we look for life guidance extend to the manner in which we should outwardly project our inner beliefs. On one hand, we’re supposed to try to persuade others to believe the same things we do. On the other hand, we’re not supposed to pray or engage in charitable works for attention or credit.
It’s a fine line, and I personally prefer Barkley’s approach. Anyone who opts to make a strong and clear and public demonstration of faith needs to understand that some Christians will be skeptical and suspicious, in part because the thousands-year-old book in one specific portion advises us to be.
I appreciate Florio’s candor and exegesis of scripture in his expression, “we’re supposed to try to persuade others to believe the same things we do.” If by “the same things,” he means, “repentance and faith in Christ alone,” we’re on the same page. Obviously many Christians have many differences in minor matters of the faith-and for those I won’t waste time “persuading.” Often times those differences can be helpful since it allows us to reach different people.
Florio also refers to Jesus’ command to serve and pray in private. I’m feeling a Tebow shot here, and if so, that’s a bit unfair since I don’t think Tebow tries to draw attention to himself.
I don’t know exactly what Florio means when he says Barkeley won’t be “demonstrative” about his faith. I think we’re all demonstrating faith in something at all times. But perhaps he is referring to the Jesus soundbytes?
Regardless, just because Florio says, “I personally prefer Barkeley’s approach,” that doesn’t mean Barkely is selling out. The takeaway for me is that both Tebow and Barkeley have a common Savior. How they serve that Savior in the NFL, in some ways, is the same: do all for the glory of God and work as they are serving Jesus (I Cor 10:31; Col 3:23). But in some ways, their methods are quite different. Barkeley may not say “Jesus” every time he gets a microphone. Tebow probably will. But who knows what is going on behind the scenes in their relationships with teammates? I have no reason to think that both are being anything less than faithful in following their Savior.
Some Christians, by virtue or platform or personality, will live out their faith and it will look differently. And that’s not a bad thing. Both people may have an effective witness to their football teams, families, neighborhoods, friends, co-workers and draw widely different audiences.
Once again, as the “thousands year old book” reminds us, the heart is the heart of the matter. Does the heart seek to bring honor to Jesus and see others honor Him? How it looks to be burdened by that call is not the point, but rather that we are burdened-or rather freed-by the call is what matters. Two different approaches but the same Jesus.