Forgiven?

Tiger Woods' nationally televised apology last Friday has been highly criticized.

You didn’t think I was going to leave this untouched, did you?  A week after Tiger Wood’s nationally televised apology regarding his affairs, I know many are exhausted with the Tiger talk.  But, frankly it doesn’t get that much bigger than this and despite all the reports, blogging, opinion polls, & radio programs, I still haven’t heard what I was hoping to hear. 

I’m not sure a public apology has ever been disected like this before.  Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal in ’98 was obviously huge, but the internet and communication capability in general then wasn’t what it is now.  This could very well be the biggest.  I’ve heard/read many who’ve analyzed the apology.  Most are unsatisfied.  Some take issue with the fact that Tiger read his statement.  How is it that a Stanford graduate who has spent the past 10 years with a microphone in his face can’t, with 3 months prep time, put together a 12 minute speech about how he feels?  Others defended him by saying it would have been too emotional of a moment to stay focused and that this was not the time to slip into rambling and say something stupid.  Some have criticized the fact that Tiger didn’t show enough emotion.  Confessing the many women he’s been with and the suffering he’s caused his wife, it didn’t appear as though a genuine tear came to Tiger’s eye.  Then again, keep in mind, this is a robotic character to say the least.  Sure, he’ll pump his fist after a great shot, but have you ever heard him talk before?  He’s C3PO in a Nike polo.  The guy even admits that his golf swing contains 30 plus points of concentration that he repeats in mechanical sequence time and again.  The point is, he seems like a robotic man, so I wouldn’t expect his apology to be anything less.  Some people simply show their emotions in different ways and we can’t necessarily fault him for not crying here.  Another criticism of Tiger’s apology was that it was too much of an infomercial about himself.  A former public relations director for the New York Yankees, Rick Cerrone, suggested that Tiger came off as “arrogant” and was simply trying to promote himself.  To a certain extent, I’d agree.  This forum was probably not the place for his comments about his foundation for helping children, or to address claims about him using performance enhancing drugs in golf, or even for him to criticize the paparazzi & media for claims of domestic violence.  Tiger actually spoke the words “these are issues between a husband and a wife” in his statement.  Really!?!?  So is a sexual union.  No one forced you to become the most successful professional golfer of all time.  No one forced you to sign public endorsements with the likes of the largest athletic gear marketer in the world.  The day you allowed such things, you opened a door.  I certainly wouldn’t defend the cutthroat media, but I’m also not going to allow Tiger to convince me to believe he’s a victim here in any way.  Right or wrong, the media (and our world) sees this stuff as fair game and the price of fame. 

There’s a number of other things people didn’t like about Tiger’s apology.  But whether you or I liked it or not really isn’t the big issue.  In fact, whether his wife Elin liked it or not, although a much more important factor than you, I, or the media, isn’t even the biggest issue.  Whether or not God saw it as legitimate repentance would be the issue that’s not going to affect Tiger for just 50 or so years (like marriage or a media relationship).  This is an issue that’s going to affect him eternally.

And so, I was fascinated to hear Tiger incorporate religion into his speech.  Referencing his upbringing in Buddhism, this is what Tiger had to say: “Part of following this path (to recovery) is Buddhism.  Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security, and it teaches me to stop following every impulse and learn restraint.  Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.”  Buddhism, practiced by over 300 million people around the planet tends to not get caught up in concrete concepts.  Forgiveness of one another is recommended so that we’re not dwelling on negative thoughts that hold us back from achieving our state of nirvana.  If I do, I will be reborn with that obstacle against me.  Bitterness, rage, grudges, none of it jives with the “enlightened path” as laid out by the Buddha.  Now I honestly don’t know what religion, if any, that Elin practices.  But, I just can’t see the “Honey, please forgive me cause if you don’t you’ll have this negative energy surrounding you that will carry over into your next life when you’re reborn” argument being all that satisfying.  Seems a bit shallow, right?  Sure, Tiger says he’s going to try his best to be a better husband.  And honestly, I believe him.  I don’t really question his sincerity.  I believe he’s truly sorry, that he wishes he never would have had these affairs, and that he hates himself for the pain this has caused his loved ones.  That’s not exactly repentance though.  That’s contrition — sorrow over sins.  For biblical precedence, Judas Iscariot (the one who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver was contrite for his sin.  He was not repentant though.  It’s no accident the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and Peter’s denial of Jesus are adjacent to one another in the Gospels.  One offered true repentance.  One did not.  Anyways, the fact that Tiger even said, “I have a lot to atone for” is a good indicator to me that Tiger Woods still doesn’t get it.

If you haven’t discovered this yet, Christianity is vastly different from every other religion on the planet.  I rediscover this all the time.  Christianity promotes a unique humility that recognizes that “I personally can’t atone for any of my sins.”  Our pride prevents us from calling ourselves “not good people” though.  Consequently, mankind has invented lots of religions (even some that slip through the cracks under the guise of “Christianity”) that suggest that there really is no “sin” but only positive or negative energy, or that if there are some objective standards of right or wrong out there, well, I can atone for myself,  or that maybe if I happen to be better than most, than I have a better than most afterlife awaiting me.  These are the concoctions of a wounded soul that knows God’s out there, knows he’s got standards, knows I’ve failed to meet those standards, and yet the pride is so great that it refuses to let God help or the apathy towards God’s Word (the Bible) is so great that it refuses to let him share his good news with me. 

So, alright, high and mighty pastor, what would have made Tiger’s apology up to your standards?  Glad you asked :).  Granted, the acceptance of our verbalized repentance before God is NOT based on the perfection of that repentance, but on God’s mercy and love.  But, particularly as Lent just began, what I was really hoping to hear come from Tiger’s mouth (and yet would have been shocked along with the rest of the world if it did) was to hear him say:

 “I’m sorry for my sins.  I’ve sinned against my God.  I’ve sinned against my wife.  I wish I had never done these awful things.  But I know my Redeemer lives.  God’s Son, Jesus, died on the cross for my sins so that I wouldn’t have to suffer eternally for them.  God accepted his punishment in my place.  So while many have suffered as a result of my mistakes, most unfortunately, my wife, by God’s grace a time will come when Elin and I won’t ever have to think, worry, or suffer for them again.  Christ nailed these mistakes to his cross.  In thankfulness for what he’s done for me, I rededicate myself to my wife, loving her every day like Christ loves his church, so much so that he was willing to live every day for her, and finally even die for her happiness and glory.” 

Can God really forgive such mistakes, just like that?  He already has.  And if I’m ever tempted to doubt my Savior’s forgiveness for my many mistakes, my personal favorite place to turn in God’s Word is 1 John 1:9.  John begins in the prior verse, verse 8, by reminding us that we’re all sinners (in other words, those who want to outright condemn Tiger or anyone else, remember, we’re all in this same sinking “sin boat” together).  Here John writes “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  John then goes on in verse 9 to describe the solution to our problem of sin.  He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”   It really is just that simple on our end.  We say we’re sorry to God and others.  We trust that Jesus really did take our sins away on the cross.  The result =forgiveness and salvation.  Sound too simple?  Well, you could concoct yet another religion that complicates it and leads further and further away from the truth or you could take God at his Word.

From what I can tell, Tiger is totally lost and desperate for answers and relief.  I can only imagine what Elin is going through.  I pray someone loves them enough to let them know what forgiveness in Christ is – that it’s not what we do, it’s what he (Jesus) did for us.  And if they believe that, well……….. I can’t tell you how their marriage turns out.  Will leave that reporting to Entertainment Tonight and TMZ.  But I can tell you where they’d spend their eternity.

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