By Bob Allen
First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress responded in his Sunday sermon Feb. 24 to controversy over NFL player Tim Tebow’s canceling an appearance at the Southern Baptist mega-church by implying the publicity-conscious celebrity was “wimping out” in the face of criticism.
Controversy about Jeffress’ past comments on issues including homosexuality, non-Christian religions and politics resurfaced recently after it was announced that Tebow would speak during a month-long celebration of the opening of a new $130 million First Baptist campus. Tebow said Feb. 21 by Twitter that he canceled his upcoming appearance due to “new information that has been brought to my attention.”
Jeffress said the cancellation hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the building dedication, which features other speakers including religious broadcasters David Jeremiah and James Dobson. He thanked high-profile Southern Baptist leaders including former SBC presidents Jack Graham and Jerry Vines, GuideStone Financial Resources head O.S. Hawkins and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler for lending their support during a week-long media frenzy.
“You know, I am grateful for men of God like these who are willing to stand up and act like men rather than wimping out when it gets a little controversial and an inconvenient thing to stand for the truth,” Jeffress said.
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in nearby Plano, Texas, posted on Twitter, “It is very sad that Tim Tebow is bowing to the pressure of political correctness and cultural decay in canceling First Baptist, Dallas,” and “avoiding controversy is never a good reason to compromise.”
Vines, Tebow’s former pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., tweeted, “I am saddened when Christians yield to pressure of current culture,” “a godless culture will pressure, threaten and bully Christians to compromise moral absolutes; then when they do, they will mock them” and “the devil laughs when Christians compromise biblical truth.”
Mohler wrote in Christianity Today that both Tebow’s decision and evangelical pastor Louie Giglio’s forced withdrawal from praying at President Obama’s second inaugural point to a “massive moral shift taking shape around us” with implications for what it means “to speak truthfully and lovingly to a society that increasingly sees us as the moral outlaws.”
Jeffress said contrary to the media’s characterization of him, he doesn’t love controversy, but he thinks it’s impossible to talk about God’s love without also discussing God’s judgment of unrepentant sinners.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew, a Baptist, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Hindu, a homosexual, an adulterer, a thief or a cheat,” he said. “It doesn’t’ matter what you’ve done, you can be forgiven of your sins if you trust in Jesus Christ as your savior. That’s not a message of hate. It’s a message of hope.”
Jeffress said the ups and downs of the previous week only strengthened his resolve.
“As long as I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, we are not going to kneel before the altar of political correctness and convenience,” he said. “We’re going to stand up and boldly proclaim the grace of God and the truth of God without compromise. So help me God, that is my commitment.”