“Gods come pretty cheap these days. You can make one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop.”
Those classic words, spoken by Barbara Hershey in the movie Hoosiers embody what has taken place in the life of Jeremy Lin in the last 72-hours. In less than half a week, he has gone from being a skilled bench warmer to an NBA superstar who just schooled one of the league’s best basketball players, Kobe Bryant.
However, it seems that Lin would want nothing less than to make him into an idol. Instead of using basketball as a means of promoting himself, it seems that his greatest aim is to make much of Jesus as he plays basketball. Give a listen.
It is doubtful that Lin, at the time of this interview, could have anticipated what took place in Market Square Garden last night. Just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had never heard of Jeremy Linn–and neither had the rest of us. Today, Kobe and the basketball watching world knows all too well about the sensational point guard who came out of nowhere to outscore Kobe and to send the Los Angeles Lakers back to the West Coast with a defeat. Here are the highlights.
As I watched the highlights, I was–and still am–amazed. In four games, Lin has become a household name, scoring and 25, 28, 23 and 38 points–not to mention averaging over eight assists in those games. Because I have a fondness for basketball and underdogs, the Jeremy Lin story is great. Unrecruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, Linn’s success is even more amazing than the Heisman-winning, two-time national champion Tim Tebow.
But there is more. Not only is Lin a great ball player. He rightly sees basketball as a gift from God, and he desires to use it as a platform for ministry. To get a sense of this, read Timothy Dalrymple‘s eye-opening interview with Lin when he was still a college player (March 3, 2010). In it Dalrymple asks Lin about how his Christian faith and basketball intersect. His interview, is called “The Faith and Fate of Jeremy Linn” (Part 1, Part 2).
A FEW REFLECTIONS
Now in all the media hype of today, fittingly entitled, “Linsanity,” let me offer a few sobering reflections. As with Tim Tebow and other outspoken athletes, politicians, and public figures–especially underdogs whose rise is meteoric–it is wise to not hang our hopes on them. Consider the case of Josh Hamilton, another Christian-athlete who recently admitted to breaking his vow to never drink again. See Evan Lenow’s helpful post “When Heroes Fail,” as he issues a similar caution.
Trust in the Gospel, not media giants. While we ought to give thanks for the way God raises up modern-day Joseph’s (and Esther’s), we should be slow to trust in man (Ps 20:7-9; 118:8-9). Often times, Christians get more excited about the craze of attention public Christians get, thinking “this is how we are going to make a difference in the world.” And to be sure, God uses public figures with large platforms to advance the message of the gospel. But ought we to think that these extraordinary means are what we need for Christian impact to take place? I think not.
God uses great and small alike. God usually uses slower, more mundare means of sending his message–like mothers and fathers imparting the gospel into their children’s lives as they pray bedside for years. No one sees it. Many surely wonder of if something more spectacular is needed, and yet by the slow process of gospel witness and example, children are brought to faith. Don’t miss it. In the interview, Lin gives attention to the impact that his parents had on him in that regard.
Let the outspoken faith of public figures spur you on, not slow you down. While Christians have every reason to cheer on this brother in Christ, we must be careful not to make people like him and Tim Tebow our evangelistic replacements. Every member of the body of Christ is called to evangelize, not to fall prey to the idea that God has raised up big names to do our work for us. In comparison with Lin, it is tempting to distrust our own ability to influence others for Christ. The temptation arises: If only I had a greater testimony, than I could be useful. But such is not the case. The power of the gospel has never been in the vessels who herald the message, the power is always in the word itself.
Rejoice in Lin’s heavenly status more than his earthly stats. At the same time, we should remember that Lin’s superstar career is four-games old. He has shot into the NBA like a comet. It is possible that his career and impact will be just as brief as a shooting star. Or it may be God’s good pleasure to make Lin a perennial all-star. Whatever the case may be, might we give thanks to God that his name is written in heaven on the testimony of his faith, more than the fact that a good, moral brother has his name written in lights.
Pray. Last, pray for Jeremy Lin, for Tim Tebow, and others who are under enormous pressure to perform, constant scrutiny, and for all their fame are in grave danger of isolation and narcissism. May God protect their purity, their biblical fidelty, and their hearts from pride. Pray for their families and their churches to reach out to them and to draw be a safe environment for these Christians to understand better what God demands and promises, instead of being bombarded for another autograph.
In the end, I find the Jeremy Lin story compelling. It has my attention. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the story goes. But as I watch I will be praying that God will make the light of Jesus in his life outshine his own newfound fame.
For a rap video on Lin’s approach to the game of basketball and some thoughtful reflections on Lin’s potential to impact Asians for Christ, see my friend Owen Strachan’s post “Linsanity! Ex-Ruff Ryders Rapping & Asian-American Christianity.”
Another post on this story is also Owen Strachan, who fills in as a sports writer for by The Gospel Coalition. His latest is called, ”The Basketball Star No Body Wanted: Jeremy Lin’s Unlikely Triump.”
David Mathis and Tony Reinke provide a nice quote from Jeremy Lin, where he talks about what God has taught him from Philippians 3 about basketball and the greater prize that is found in Christ — All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball“
Soli Deo Gloria, dss
(HT: Justin Taylor)