Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Golf - A Lesson in Virtue

While I was away at the beach last week, I caught a few minutes of the Masters on TV Thursday afternoon, just in time to see Phil Mickelson land his tee shot in the azaleas to the left of the 13th fairway. When he found his ball, he asked the official if he was in a hazard. He needed to know because it would affect the way he played his next shot.

Last year Dustin Johnson began the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship with a one stroke lead over Bubba Watson. He had a legitimate chance to win his first major tournament. His tee shot missed the fairway and landed in an area that, in the past, had been a sand bunker. There was no sand, and it didn't appear to be a bunker.  It just looked like an area that had been trampled by the gallery.  So he took his normal practice swing, grounded his club, and played his shot.  He went on to finish the hole with a bogey, placing him in a three-way tie and a playoff. But shortly after he finished the 72nd hole, the officials informed him that his last shot to the green had been played from a bunker.  Since he had grounded his club in the bunker, he incurred a two stroke penalty, ending his chance for a victory. 

After reviewing the play on camera, he could have blamed his caddie for the mistake. After all, the caddie should have known it was a bunker and should have told him. But Dustin Johnson didn't blame anyone but himself. When asked about the situation he said it was his responsibility to know where the bunkers were, and he was the only one to blame for the mistake.

A golfer is expected to know the rules and to apply the rules with integrity.  If a golfer makes a mistake, he is expected to accept the penalty, even when nobody else knows that a mistake occurred.  In competitive golf, if a golfer signs an incorrect scorecard, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he is disqualified from the competition.  Personal responsibility and integrity are an integral part of the game.  A golfer who does not know the rules or who lacks integrity is an ineffective golfer.

The same can be said for our Christian walk.  God has given us the Bible as a guide for the way we should live.  He wants us to walk in integrity and virtue so that we can be effective in our knowledge of Him. 

II Peter 1:3-10 tells us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”ESV

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