As Linsanity and Tebowmania have swept through the nation in only a few short months, many people have made the quick comparison between the two popular athletes. Of course, there are a lot of obvious similarities. Both have surprised many with their play at the professional level, faced adversity, worked tremendously hard, and showed their strong faith in Jesus Christ. There was always an enthusiastic following for both during their college years, and now it is almost impossible not to see phrases like “Linning” and “Tebowing” all over the internet. I explained my inner conflict of rooting for Tim Tebow a couple months ago, as well as my love for Jeremy Lin (post 1) (post2). What grabs the world’s attention is their ability not only to persevere when people don’t believe they can, but to excel under those doubts.
Tim Tebow has never been afraid to praise God, never afraid to sing worship songs on the sidelines, and never afraid to stand up for his faith. The world is waiting for Tebow to fail in any way, as a football player, as a quarterback, or as a person, that would make him a hypocrite. What amazes me about Tebow is that he has proven that he can walk the walk. Just when you think this man is too good to be true, you read a story about how he invites people with severe health issues to be his special guest to every game. He has shown to be a gracious winner but also a gracious loser. He does not let his mood affect how he spends time with his special guests or how he handles his postgame interviews. The biggest thing that I can never get out of my mind after watching clips of Tebow is how much joy he has before and after the game and how much passion he has in everything he does.
Tim Tebow has kicked down the door that many famous Christian athletes before him were afraid to cross. Giving thanks to God after winning a championship is common, but for many, God and Jesus Christ do not belong in every single post-game and pre-game interview. Tebow has taken that risk and it has made him the most polarizing character in sports. Tebow isn’t afraid of people’s hate because Jesus proclaimed that if we follow Him, many will hate us. Tebow isn’t afraid of people’s criticism and instead responds with grace and humility.
Jeremy Lin has shown potential to be the same way. Although he may not face the same kind of challenges as Tebow and does not yet have the same expectations, Lin carries a different burden; he carries the weight of a people group, the Asian American nation. Because of this burden, I think it is even more important for him to take a vocal and active role as a representative of Jesus. Lin has already shown that he is unafraid to praise God and shares about his desire to eventually go into full-time ministry. Like Tebow’s joy, the biggest thing that truly impresses me about Jeremy Lin is his humility. In an interview with a ChristianTV station in Taiwan, he shared about how the past year was one of the hardest years of his life. He shared how he was disappointed at not being drafted and disheartened by the lack of playing time he received. But he talked about how Romans 5:3-5 helped him through everything.
Romans 5:3-5 talks about overcoming suffering, which leads to perseverance that builds character and gives us hope. Lin has faced a lot of adversity over the years: being overlooked after high school, dealing with racism in college, being overlooked after college, being sent to the D League multiple times, being waived by two teams in one off-season, the list goes on. Even in the press conference after the Lakers game, you could feel the emotion in his voice when reflecting on the past year. God’s message is not that life will always be easy when following him. Instead, it will be a life of ups and downs, but what we are working for will be worth it in the end.
Jeremy Lin does not need to be Tebow, and it would be hard for anyone to live out the testimony Tebow has lived out in the last 6 years. Nevertheless, I would hope that Jeremy Lin will take on the challenge to be outspoken in his own way. Asian Americans have done the quiet and humble thing well for decades now. We have gone about our own business and shown kindness and humility. What we need now is an Asian American who isn’t afraid to speak up and tell the world what he stands for. God challenges all Christians to take their light and put it out for all to see. The door is wide open and I hope Jeremy Lin can walk through, continuing the work Tebow started and rallying the rest of us who claim to be followers of Christ to follow their lead. Not only can Jeremy Lin help break a long standing stereotype that Asian Americans are un-athletic, but also the reputation that we are passive aggressive and unwilling to voice our beliefs. I hope that Asian Americans can gain courage and confidence from what Jeremy Lin has already accomplished. And I guess I am hoping that not only can Jeremy Lin walk the walk but also talk the talk. Because his message is exactly what our world and society needs to hear.