Lifestyle & Human Interest

Former NFL Star: We've 'Crafted Our Own Versions of God That Are Wrong'


In a culture that tries to break apart family and Christianity, it can be hard to be a voice in the wilderness, speaking truth even in the midst of lies.

Jeff Kemp has tasted worldly success, but he has a new mission: pointing people back to Christ, and doing it publicly.

Kemp, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL, first dedicated his life to God as he began his pro football career.

“God had got my attention at the end of college when I went to the NFL, and he led me to Christian teammates, some great chaplains and then my wife Stacy, [who] was deeply anchored in Jesus,” he recently told CBN News. “I had to choose his purpose … and up until that point, Jeff was my purpose.”

He spoke to CBN about two major issues in society causing a breakdown in the next generation: dads being absent from their stations and true, godly masculinity being misunderstood or decried.

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“There’s been a blitz upon manhood and masculinity and it’s particularly traced to the lack of fathering, the absence of fathering, the fatherhood deficit, if you will,” he said. “A lot of dads are doing a great job and plugged in, but there’s tons of dads who aren’t in the home.”

He said that nearly a quarter of families are missing a present father, and because of that, young men and women aren’t witnessing good masculinity.

“There isn’t such a thing as toxic masculinity,” Kemp said. “We don’t have too much masculinity; we have too little. What’s toxic is a culture of obsession, addiction, digital entertainment, selfishness, anger, confusion.”

“Fathers are the ones who show sons what it is to be a man, to be masculine, to have your identity given to you from God,” he said. “Not earned through football, or sports, or money, or girls, or fashion, or whatever the latest fad will be because it’s a very confusing culture today, for our young sons in particular.”

Kemp defined true masculinity as “Christ-likeness, made by God, humble, serving, strong for others.”

Those who don’t outright reject masculinity as a modern evil are not exempt from misunderstanding it, either. Kemp said many people hold an unbiblical or poorly founded idea about who God is and how to emulate Christ that confuses them and stops them from being able to pursue true masculinity.

“We’ve just crafted our own versions of God that are wrong,” Kemp explained. “God talks about himself as a heavenly Father. Jesus paints the picture of him as that amazing father of the prodigal son who jumps off the porch and graciously welcomes the humble son back.”

He also acknowledged that the only things that can transform people and change their views are God’s love and relationship with our Creator.

“The solution is every Christian person — daughter, son, woman, man — needs to go back to their relationship with God,” he said. “It’s transformative. Once we receive that fathering, we receive our identity as a son, a beloved and well-delighted-in son, or a daughter … because of what Jesus has done.”

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Many men who want to be good examples for their children feel hamstrung because of their own weaknesses or because they didn’t have loving fathers themselves, but Kemp said dads need to forget perfection; what children — and the world — need is men willing to be humble and act with intention and God’s love.

That means dads should find community with other dads, develop themselves as strong Christians, and speak about God in every aspect of their lives and their children’s lives.

“Deuteronomy says you’re supposed to talk to them about the things of Abba Father and Jesus and the Word of God,” he said.

“In the morning, at night, when you put them to bed, when you drive in the car, when you’re on the way to Little League, when you’re on the way home from school, after they watch something weird on TV … dad, you can talk about these things.”

To help other men, Kemp has developed a multitude of faith resources that he offers on his website.

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AF Branco is an editorial cartoonist.