No one could accuse Giglio of stridency or reckless language. Famously non-confrontational on such issues, he even explained that homosexuality "has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years" – a fact that puzzled many evangelicals, who wondered what guidance the young people in Giglio's church had been receiving from him on this issue for a decade and a half.
Under a glare of intense and even overwhelming controversy, Giglio withdrew from the inaugural ceremony, and Tebow has withdrawn from speaking at FBC. Both did so in an effort to escape a controversy that threatened to hinder their efforts to represent Christ in a winsome way. Both decisions are understandable in light of the pressure, but neither Giglio nor Tebow can escape the question that the larger world is now pressing upon them: What exactly do you believe about homosexuality?
No statement short of celebrating and affirming the normalization of homosexuality will be found acceptable to those now demanding an answer. Writing for Yahoo! Sports, Jay Busbee stated what is now obvious: "Whatever the reason for his cancellation, Tebow is fast approaching the point where he'll need to make more definitive stands on his own. There are plenty of people needing him to speak up for one reason or another; he'll need to decide how public to go with his perspective on Christianity. He has the power and potential to be an influential voice for his religion, but he'll need to decide how much of that religion he wishes to demonstrate."
Now, take out Tebow's name and insert your own. The massive moral shift taking shape around us is fast eliminating any neutral ground on this issue. Those celebrating the moral normalization of homosexuality will demand an answer from us all. Giglio and Tebow withdrew from controversial appearances, but they will not evade the demand to answer the fundamental question, and any Christian who will not join the moral revolution will be marginalized as a moral outlier in the larger society.
Evangelical Christians are now called upon to think strategically about what it means to speak truthfully and lovingly to a society that increasingly sees us as the moral outlaws. Clearly, we must watch our speech carefully, measuring every word for truth and tone and avoiding incendiary sound bites. We must also guard our hearts toward the persistent temptation towards self-righteousness. But, at the same time, even the most humble statement of biblical truth can now be turned into a sound bite described as hate speech and a refusal to affirm the normalization of homosexuality is turned into repulsive intolerance. We now face no shortage of arguments for capitulation, but abandoning the truth of God's Word is not an option. We deny the gospel if we deny the sinfulness of sin. That sin. Every sin. Our sin.
Further, evangelicals should not miss this opportunity to rethink our focus on evangelical celebrities in popular culture, including sports heroes. For now, the controversy is over Tebow's withdrawal from an invitation extended by an historic church. The pastor's statements have been the center of the controversy. Inevitably, the controversy will shift to Tebow's own statement, which he will eventually have to make. There will be no escape.
Before long, the ball will be thrown back to Tebow. I hope and pray he does not fumble it. I pray the same for myself and for every Christian in the midst of this tumultuous cultural landscape. Sooner than later, the ball will be thrown to each of us.