So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2
A couple of days ago my friend George and I spent the afternoon playing golf. I’m not a frequent golfer, but I do try to average somewhere in the neighborhood of one outing a month (this makes five in 2017 to date).
The course was North Carolina beautiful, but hot and humid enough this week to remind me of Florida. We had fun, scored the entire range of possibilities, donated a number of balls to the woods and water, and dropped impressively long putts while missing embarrassingly short ones. I even managed one, spectacular, “made for the highlight reel” birdie.
So we were doing what friends do – enjoying one-another’s company, telling bad jokes, sharing stories, exploring theology – when a situation on the 18th tee-box caught my attention.
The Rules Clearly State…
The rules clearly state that golfers must tee off in between the tee markers. Failure to do this, or moving the markers in any fashion, incurs a two-stroke penalty (Rules 11-2, and 11-4b – see annotated photograph).
The markers on our tee-box made following this very specific law a bit of a challenge.
I asked George (left) to demonstrate what might be involved if we were to honor the rules of golf in this instance; obviously it would be impossible.
But I’m a firm believer in rules. Back when I was a teacher I had children actually say things like, “Mr. Maul, I want to thank you for ‘running a tight ship.'” Children without a solid moral grounding, or any kind of predictable life, found a lot of comfort and even freedom in knowing exactly where things stood.
At the same time it’s important to understand the greater purpose of these – or any – guidelines. The point of the rules in golf are to define fair and impartial conditions for play, where the skill and imagination of the player are consistently tested in relation to the design and the parameters of the course.
Trying to hit the ball from the tee-box George and I encountered on the 18th hole would have been contrary to the design and the intent of the spirit of golf. So we didn’t. And we didn’t assess a penalty, either.
I’m sure some golf fundamentalist with a legalistic heart would happily argue the point in favor of strict and unwavering adherence to the letter of the law. To which I say, Good luck with that. And I’m sure one day you will have your own tightly wound heavenly links, where you can “play” for eternity in the life to come.
As for me, I’ll be actually enjoying this amazing gift of life defined by grace. Sure, you can put an asterisk by the par I made on the 18th hole if you want. And you can put any number of asterisks by my name to be pointed out when I’m welcomed home at the pearly gates – if it makes you feel better. But I’m honestly not half so interested in the score as the experience.
One of my many faults, I’m sure.
Back on the links…
Oh, I see you’re reviewing the 18th Century edition of the rules, published by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, before you make a decision to move your ball (or not) from under the golf cart someone left in the rough when its battery died. Take your time and get it right… but if you don’t mind we’ll go ahead and play through.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.