“Lynsanity” is now an official English-language word, declared so by the Global Language Monitor. I doubt there are many Americans (and scarcely any Asians) who aren’t familiar with what the Wall Street Journal called Lin’s “quintessential underdog story.” Jeremy Shu-How Lin, born August 23, 1988, received no athletic scholarship out of high school. He attended Harvard University where he made the basketball team, averaging (for his college career) 12.9 points, and 3.5 assists per game, with nearly a 50 % field-goal percentage. Though he was undrafted out of college, the 2010 Harvard grad reached a contact agreement later that year with his hometown Golden State Warriors. He seldom played in his rookie season and was assigned to the NBA Development League (D-League) three times. He was then waived by Golden State and picked up by the New York Knicks early in the 2011-2012 season. He was assigned again to the D-League where he only played sparingly.
But, in February, due in part to an injury to star Carmelo Anthony, Lin was put into a starting point guard role for the Knicks. He was a key factor in a Knicks’ wins streak, generating a global following known as “Linsanity.” He is one of the few Asian Americans in NBA history and the first American player in the league of Taiwanese descent (recently retired 7’6″ Yao Ming was born in Shangai, China). Since being given playing time, Lin is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
He appeared on two consecutive covers of Sports Illustrated, the first with the headline: “Against All Odds.” Time magazine also had him on the cover and his story made the front page of many Taipei newspapers. David Stern, NBA Commissioner wrote: “No player has created the interest and frenzy in this short period of time–in any sport.” (Don’t forget Tim Tebow and the “Tebow-mania” of this past fall!). Sale of replicas of Lin’s #17 jersey have increased more than 3,000%! It has been the top selling jersey in the NBA since Feb. 4, 2012, and is marketed by both Nike and Adidas. One of his rookie cards recently saw bids exceeding $21,000! Yet, according to his coaches, Lin remains the same humble guy, which is quite unique for a young man creating such “insanity.”
He is so popular that politicians on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have rushed to embrace him. While Taiwan has an obvious connection to Lin, the Communist government wasn’t about to be left out of the hoopla. The head of the Communist Party in one Chinese province announced that Lin’s maternal ancestors were natives of a village near the provincial capital. But, while Communist officials were quick to note the birthplace of Lin’s ancestors, they never said a word about something else even more important about Jeremy Lin–the fact that He is a born-again Christian. In fact, Lin’s great grandfather converted to Christianity through some American missionaries in the early 20th century, making Lin a fourth-generation Christian. None of the Chinese coverage of Lin’s exploits mentioned his faith. As a result, relatively few Chinese citizens know about Lin’s faith. After all, for the Communist Chinese to acknowledge Lin’s Christianity would be, to put it mildly, awkward. What’s even more ironic is that the Lin story broke around the same time that China’s next leader, Vice President Xi Jingping, was touring the United States!
Not only has Jeremy remained humble through all this “hoopla,” (pun intended!), but he has, like Tim Tebow, maintained his Christian testimony, letting people know that Christ is more important to him than his success in sports. He quotes all kinds of Bible verses in twitter messages. His story has also helped draw attention to a group of even bigger underdogs, Chinese Christians. Even the Times, in reporting on Jeremy Lin’s impact on China, described China’s Christian minority as “often-persecuted,” and reported the various efforts the Communist government has used to contain the spread of Christianity, pointing out the irony in Beijing’s embrace of Lin.
Many in the world idolize athletes, giving them a unique platform of influence. Some, like Charles Barkley, retired Utah Jazz player from the NBA, say they don’t want to be a role model, but they are, nonetheless, just that to thousands,even millions of young and old alike. Whether they are a good or bad role models, they are just that, with many watching and looking up to them. Think of the impact of the poor choices some of these idolized athletes have made: Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, etc. It’s so refreshing to have some role models who are standing up for Christ and being a positive influence for Him. We surely need to pray for them, for Satan will do his best to get them to crash and ruin their testimonies. Praise the Lord for the Tim Tebows, and Jeremy Lins, who are willing to put Christ above all else and not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. May their tribe increase!
I think about how God elevated Hadassah (Esther) through a beauty contest to the position of queen to Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) and how through that platform of influence she was willing, with some encouragement from cousin Mordecai, to use her position to help save her people, the Jews, from annihilation at the hands of the Persians, thanks to a plot by wicked Haman. Mordecai’s appeal to Esther (Hadassah being Hebrew name) was: “…And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14). We may not all have such a large platform of influence as a Queen Esther or a Jeremy Lin or a Tim Tebow, but we all have some opportunities to be a positive influence for Christ in our “little world.” There are always others who are watching us and giving us opportunity to take a stand for Christ and be the salt and light we are intended to be of which Jesus spoke in His sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:13-16).
What kind of influence are you being for Christ. You and I, as believers, are either pointing people to Him or away from Him. Someone said, “Christians are the greatest argument both for and against Christianity. Which are you? Which am I?…. And, don’t forget to pray consistently for Christians who happened to be in the limelight and have a large platform of ministry–they have a lot of pressure on them. They are definitely on the front lines of spiritual warfare.
P.S. Some of the information in today’s “Wisdom of the Week” was gleaned from Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint from Feb. 27, 2012.