For Father’s Day, ’05, my children (so actually, my wife) gave me a “coupon” to go play golf any time I wanted. This was a generous and much-appreciated gift. Well as June, ’06 rolled around this year, I had still not redeemed the coupon. And I was afraid it would expire on Father’s Day, so I thought it was about time to redeem it. So I hit the links in early June for the first time in about 10 months. Given the length of time since I last played, it was not too bad of a round.
Here’s the deal with me and golfing. I come from a family of golfers–dad, mom, and brother all played while I was growing up and still play regularly today. Though I was raised in a golfing home, I did not like golf. Often times our vacations would be to golfing destinations. So while they were out chasing that little white ball around, I was swimming in the pool, playing at the beach, hitting tennis balls, wasting–no, investing quarters at the arcade, or bowling. Occassionally I would begin a round of golf with them thinking I would learn to like it, but after a few holes I would resign to golf cart driving duty. It was not until my days in seminary that I actually took golf up and enjoyed it. Sean Higgins, Dave Cleland, Mike Escen, Mr. Light and I would head up the Grapevine to middle of nowhere and get a welcomed reprieve from the rigors of seminary life. Sean and I decided that if we could not be quality golfers, we could at least increase the quantity of our golf. So on one Monday we left the house before dark and arrived at the course just at sunrise. We played all day long, taking only a break for lunch, and got in 65 holes. Our last hole was played in the dark–amazingly, we hit the fairway on our drives. If we had not, we would have never found our balls.
When I go golfing now, I can temporarily fool people into thinking I am actually “a golfer.” I dress the part, having been given nice golf shirts from tournaments my parents have attended. I can speak the golf lingo and know the rules pretty well. I have nice clubs. They are hand-me-downs from my dad after he got new clubs for his 50th birthday, but they’re really nice 2nd hander’s–Calaway Big Bertha irons and woods. I even have an okay swing, since I have watched a lot of golf in my life and had free coaching from my dad and brother. So when I step up to that first tee and join a group of strangers, they probably think they are getting a real ball-striker. And I can usually keep fooling them off the tee box. My driver is my most consistent club in the bag. I don’t hit it terribly long, but I can generally hit it straight about 225 yards down the fairway. I might even hit my second shot well and end up on or near the green–still fooling the rest of my foursome. But then reality sets in on and around the green. Because I don’t play more than 2-3 times a year, I have absolutely no feel for short game. My chips and putts are wildly unpredictable.
And this is how the game of golf works for a hack like myself. I have enough muscle memory to go out and hit my woods and irons decently even though I only play sporadically. But I cannot keep the “feel” of putting and chipping without consistent practice. I can fool the casual observer with my golfer-like dress, equipment, and even swing. But if they watch carefully at all, they will notice that I am not the real deal. I don’t have “the touch” that comes with hundreds of rounds of golf and hours of putting and chipping practice. I am in fact, a poser.
There are posers in the church as well. They may have grown up in Christian homes, speak Christianese, dress Christianly, wear the latest Jesus Junk, have their car decorated with Christian bumper stickers, consistently go to Sunday worship and all the church’s extra functions, and maybe even have some speaking ability that makes them appear to be a good teacher and example. They fool casual observers into thinking they are the real deal. But watch them closely and you realize that something is missing. They can fool people with external shows of righteousness, but they have no “feel” for holiness–there is no humility, gentleness, patience, purity, self-control, love, or prudence. There is a thin facade of external righteousness that covers over a vacuum of godlessness. Like the Pharisees, they “clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25). They are “like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (23:27).
It would be easy to talk about “them” and to bash “those” hypocrites in the church. But with only a small dose of self-examination, the little pharisee within my own heart is clearly seen. The “log” in my own eye is great. May God give us (me) the grace to walk in the fear of the Lord and live authentic, godly lives for His glory in Christ Jesus. May we not find contentment in being external man-pleasers, but rather strive after being men and women who are holy from the inside out.