I don’t follow football, or any sport, really, with the occasional exception for college basketball or the Olympics. (This, and a specific disregard for the Phillies and the Eagles makes my parents wonder if I was switched at birth.)
However, even I have heard of Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow, who plays for the Denver Broncos, who played for Florida in college, and who makes a habit of mentioning his devout Christian faith repeatedly during every interview.
It’s not the football, so much that attracts my attention as it is the last bit. It’s the conflation of Tebow’s faith and his football that has gotten people’s attention, so much so that “Tebow-ing’ is now a thing–a new word to describe his habit of dropping to one knee in a prayerful pose of gratitude when he scores a touchdown. (Which is awesome, because we needed a neologism for genuflecting. Thanks, guy!)
When he was in college, Tebow had a habit of inscribing Bible citations in his eye black–that stuff football players smear under their eyes. John 3:16 was his favorite.
And this got me thinking. John 3:16 is an insanely popular one-off verse to cite. You want a Christian pop-culture slogan or a 2 second TV ad, a specialized handshake to assure the members of your crowd that you’re ‘one of them’ then dropping the 3:16 bomb is the way to go.
But is it the best one?
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever should believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Bam.
Well, ok. That’s pretty good! It’s short, it’s pithy, it’s to the point. Strong language, no passive voice. (Well, it’s translated from some pretty fancy Greek, which does use the aorist tense, but we’ll gloss that for now.)
But, because I like to deconstruct things (I have a ‘Team Derrida’ t-shirt, and if you got that joke, I’m going to buy you a commiserating cup of coffee.*) I have some questions.
Mainly, is John 3:16 the best verse?
Because, ok, God loved the world, that’s a good message right there. But if I’m a newbie (and let’s assume I am, because this is who messages in eyeblack are aiming at, right?), then how am I to understand the rest of this verse?
- I don’t know what ‘only-begotten’ means.
- Does ‘everlasting life’ mean literal ‘you-never-die’, or something metaphorical? (Because that actually does matter. And should be discussed/explained.)
- And how do I believe in him? (also, which him are we talking about?)
- Do I believe in the historical reality of Jesus, or something more specific, and if the latter, then what, specifically?
- And, the verse says nothing about what I should do, in the next moment. Nothing about how I should treat the woman sitting at the desk beside mine, or the guy sitting on the sidewalk outside the door, or the kid wandering down the street, who stole my GPS last year. None of that is addressed.
I’m just told to believe in a guy, and live forever. I’m not told what to do about the people around me, the problems I have now, or anything else. Hmmm.
So, is there another option for Primary Christian Slogan Verse? Because this one seems confusing and incomplete.
Here are some options I came up with. Now I’m just spitballing here, so bear with me.
1. Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
- Good, pithy, strong verbs, etc. Covers the ‘here’s what you do!’ aspect well. But the question format might leave some doubt as to the fact that, in fact, God does want you to do the justice, kindness, humble-walking bit.
2. 1 John 4:21 “The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
- In reality, I’d nominate all of ch.4 in 1 John, mainly because it goes on at length about God=love. (Seriously. Read 1 John, whilst skipping over the bit about the antichrist.) But entire chapters of the Bible, especially of Johannine epistles, are not pithy.
3. The entirety of Romans 8
- Again, brevity is a problem here. But it’s just so good…..
Any other suggestions?
Or…. is it just possible that Christianity doesn’t fit easily into a slogan? Is it possible that it’s something that requires a conversation, a relationship, an entire lifetime to explain even close to properly?
*At which, we can discuss why Derrida would probably not have a team, so much as a collection, a smorgasbord of people, a gathering, per se, because a team would still need to be interrogated further, their motives taken apart. “Why are they there? Who is on this team? Who is not on this team? What prevents them from being there, and why?”
Possibly, the coffee should be switched to decaf.