Yesterday as we traveled to Augusta, I spent some time pondering what my response was going to be towards Tiger Woods. Not that he would notice amidst the throngs of people in the gallery--I just could tell there was some work to be done in my heart.
The choices Tiger Woods made in regards to repeatedly betraying his vows to his wife were wrong. I clearly do not approve of the moral fiber he has displayed. Yet, you cannot argue that he is an incredibly talented athlete. So, my question to myself was this: to clap for him or not to clap? What would my applause mean anyway? Appreciation of his golf talent, affirmation of the courage it took for him to reenter the limelight, approval of his lifestyle choices, or maybe even some offering of grace?
I am no judge of any other person's heart. Frankly, it is difficult enough to sort through the mess in my own heart most days. Only time will tell if he is reformed--and the thing I believe he needs most (a saving knowledge of Christ) does not appear to be a part of the solution he has chosen. So, could I support the golfer without supporting the choices of the man? As a stranger in the crowd did my reception really matter?
Honestly, each time he approached a hole where we were sitting there was a strange discomfort. Most clapped politely. Some shouted "Tiger!" A few crossed their arms in their own little personal act of protest. And even though I did not want it to, a word crept into my head and heart: grace.
I was reminded of the old adage: Love the sinner, hate the sin.
God also nudged me powerfully about other areas of my life where this type of thinking becomes a slippery slope of judgment vs. righteous offense vs. grace. The alcoholic whose disease and accompanying behavior has destroyed their family, the woman caught in adultery, the husband who drinks too much and makes inappropriate comments to women, the liar, the gossip, the friend who has been talking behind my back...How hard it is for me show them support and love--especially when I don't feel like they are necessarily sorry or reformed.
And, yet, it is a center point of the Gospel message. Loving people regardless of their 'worthiness' or cleanliness. I think of the woman Jesus encountered at the well, the woman on the verge of being stoned for her adultery, His words on Good Friday as He prayed for God to forgive His accusers because they 'know not what they do.'
This is completely contrary to my nature. My flesh wants to teach people a lesson. I want to fight for justice. My Savior bids me to look outside myself for a grace that can only be understood through Him.
So I clapped...Not nearly as hard as I did for some of the others, but politely, I clapped. It was a first step for a stranger who will never know...and tonight I pray for God to give me the strength to show similar grace to my true neighbors--people I do know, who will notice.