Monday, February 22, 2010

What Christians Can Learn from the Tiger Woods Press Conference

Last Friday, millions of people were glued to the TV as the world's greatest golfer gave a 13-minute apology and took responsibility for his role in the greatest sports scandal in history. No, it wasn't steroids (a la Barry Bonds), it wasn't gambling (a la Pete Rose), it wasn't guns (a la Plaxico Burress)--it wasn't even anything "illegal" according to the laws of the United States or the laws of Florida, his home state where the incidents all happened. It's no news now, that Woods had been involved in affairs with a number of mistresses. And this uncovered infidelity tarnished his "good guy" image causing him to lose millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships that were paid to both him and his foundation. But I don't want to talk about the infidelity, the celebrity lifestyle, or the sense of "entitlement" he spoke of in his press conference. I want to look deeper at what we can learn from this whole situation.

First, when people stumble and fall, they should apologize to those they have hurt. But kicking someone when they are down does nothing for anyone. Statements were made by numerous journalists and media personnel that Woods somehow owed them an individual apology or should be taking their questions and answering them. Because his sins have found him out, this is one of the most humiliated and now humbled persons on the planet. And while he may have let down a bunch of aspiring young golfers who wore his clothes and put his posters on their walls, his offenses were really only directed at a small handful of people--his family. So, just as Woods claimed that he felt his celebrity status entitled him to the things he did, why then do people in the media or in the world of sports in general feel entitled to more than what he did in making his statements? While his millions of dollars in endorsements has broadened his circle of influence, it makes sense for him to apologize. But we should not be demanding of more. Part of the Christian life is to practice forgiveness. And that forgiveness is not contingent on how a person acts, or even whether or not they confess or repent. We should accept his contrition and not cast judgment.

Second, we can learn a lot about Christianity from his statements about his religion-Buddhism. During his statements, Tiger Woods mentioned looking to his religion of Buddhism for guidance during his road to recovery. He shared that one of the tenets of Buddhism is to look to yourself for inner strength. Another tenet is to find balance between your personal life, your professional life, and your spiritual life. He also stated that he had abandoned his faith in Buddhism and had not been practicing it as diligently as he should have been. I found these statements both saddening and encouraging. Here's what I mean.

If Buddhism looks to the self, that means the only person that can help Tiger Woods out of this situation is Woods himself. I honestly don't know how Buddhists feel about a community of support like the church is for Christians. But it is pretty evident, according to Woods, that there is no God in heaven who will be walking this road with him. Will there be other men seeking to be upright and moral who will be holding him accountable and helping him to make good decisions? Does he have the standard of a perfect Savior to strive to be like? No. So when a person is at their all-time low, all he has is himself. Praise God we have a God who loves us and gave himself up for us (Rom. 5:8), and who left his Holy Spirit (Acts 2) who speaks to us and guides us, and who left us the church that can be our support system when we fall (Acts 2:42-47). I know how far I am from God and thankfully I don't have to look to myself for inner strength. I can look to God's strength. God's "mighty hand" is mentioned 24 times in the Old Testament. God's strength is available to us, through Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:13).

Finally, the thing I think one good thing we can take from this is that Woods is turning to his faith. Now, while I don't agree with the faith he is turning to, he is aware of the fact that he needs something else in his life. In this case it is something he has not had for a long time. As Christians, I believe we can do one of three things when life gets difficult (to say that life is difficult for Tiger Woods would be an understatement)--1) we can abandon our faith in God, 2) we can remain stagnant in our faith, or 3) we can cling to our faith and let it be the rock that sustains us in troubled times. Whether our difficult times are brought on us by circumstances of life beyond our control (loss of a job, death of a loved one), or due to our own sin and the consequences of it, Our faith is there and the God of our faith is there to pull us through these tough times. Philippians 4:6-7 says "6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." The peace of God comes through giving our problems to him. And this will be a peace we can't explain because it "[passes] all understanding". My prayer is that we keep our faith when life gets rough.

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