Erring on the Side of Grace

When I have some time at home over the weekend, I like to watch a little golf on TV. I love to golf but have only been able to play one round since moving to Iowa two and a half years ago. My favorite golfer is Phil Mickelson, largely because he’s a lefty, as am I. Phil is an exciting player to watch because you never quite know where he’s going to hit the ball! This past weekend, after playing well in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Mickelson failed to make the cut because he was too wild in the second round.

Another player I follow is Matt Kuchar, who is currently ranked #22 in the world. Kuchar has had a tough few months, however, after an unfortunate incident at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico last November. Kuchar played exceptionally well and won the tournament, raking in $1.3 million. The trouble began when Kuchar hired a local caddie, David Giral Ortiz, because his regular caddie could not be there. Kuchar paid Ortiz $5,000 for his services. However, if his normal caddie had been present, he would have received 10% of Kuchar’s winnings, or $130,000.

The Mayakoba Classic was Kuchar’s first win in more than four years, and he called Ortiz his “good luck charm.” Ortiz reportedly told Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger, “Matt is a good person and a great player. He treated me very well. I am only disappointed by how it all finished.” You see, Ortiz had asked for what he thought was fair, $50,000, rather that Kuchar’s $5,000.

Things were quiet for a few months until mid-February, when news got out that Kuchar had stiffed Ortiz. After receiving considerable negative publicity, Kuchar admitted that he had goofed, issued a heartfelt apology, and gave Ortiz an extra $45,000, for a total of $50,000.

Mind you, Matt Kuchar is not poor. He has earned more than $46 million in his career and as much or even more from endorsements and appearances. What fascinated me was the backlash against Kuchar on social media. Some said Kuchar only paid Ortiz more money because he “got caught.” Others claimed that Kuchar was racist, ignorant, insensitive, or simply an “ugly American.” Still others had compassion for Kuchar, saying that he should be commended for ultimately doing the right thing.

At first, Kuchar, who is well liked on the PGA Tour, tried to rationalize his decision by saying, “For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week.” Certainly, Ortiz has never made that much money in a week and most likely never will again. At the same time, Ortiz originally received about $125,000 less than what a regular caddie would have received for that week’s work. It also didn’t help that Kuchar was quoted by Golf Digest as saying, “I certainly don’t lose any sleep over this.”

Finally, Matt Kuchar made things right, three months after the tournament. On February 15, in a formal statement, Kuchar said, “For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”

Kuchar’s situation reminded me of a prayer that I say almost every day. “Lord, when I err, may I always err on the side of grace.” Every day, I make mistakes. Every day, I fail to live up to God’s hope for me to be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving of others. Every day I keep moving on to perfection. Whenever I have to make important or difficult decisions, I pray, “Lord, please help me to see all people your precious children. When I make a mistake, may I always err on the side of grace. May your unfailing love always live through my words and actions.”

It’s so easy to lose our soul, isn’t it? Even in The United Methodist Church. Matthew 8:34-36 says, “After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?’” (CEB) The Message translates verses 36 and 37 this way, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Why are we so willing to trade our souls for being right and getting the upper hand?

Why are we more fond of taking up the battle than taking up the cross? When is erring on the side of grace and losing our lives the right thing to do in a pluralistic world that is populated with an amazing variety of human beings, every last one created in God’s image?

On a social media site, an individual wrote this to Matt Kuchar before he decided to err on the side of grace, “Matt, you can still salvage this situation. It was unfortunate and handled badly. Time for you to make a grand gesture — Public and Personal. Invite Mr. Ortiz to America for a round of golf at your course, then compensate him an amount that leaves him smiling. The nation has an enormous capacity to forgive. And this is what they will remember — you being kind and generous.”

I wonder. When the national and international press has published countless stories in the past several weeks about the state of The United Methodist Church, is it possible for us to make a grand gesture to the world in the midst of our divided body of Christ? Can we salvage our beloved church if we all covenanted to make erring on the side of grace our default mode?

  • What if we sought to understand before insisting on being understood?
  • What if we welcomed before rejecting?
  • What if we forgave before judging?
  • What if we loved before fearing?
  • What if we repented before asking others to repent?
  • What if we lost our lives for the sake of the gospel before trying to save them?
  • What if the world could say of The United Methodist Church, “What an enormous capacity they have to forgive and embrace the beauty of God’s creative diversity!”
  • What if we were kind and generous to others before even thinking about what we believe to be rightfully ours?
  • What if we devoted our lives to bringing people together rather than simply lamenting the partisanship and divisions of our country, world, and church?

What grand gesture – public and personal – is God calling you and me – the body of Christ – to make right now?

12 thoughts on “Erring on the Side of Grace

  1. Bishop I share in your prayer, that I too will err on the side of grace and love.

    Our LGBTQAI siblings need a grand gesture of love and grace for the harm I have caused my siblings and the harm the Church continues to inflict.

    May God grant us courage and wisdom for the days ahead.

  2. I am hoping our grand gesture is to vote at Iowa Annual Conference to be a One Church plan conference. I believe it would be a great symbol of grace and show our intent to spread God’s extravagant love. It would be a civil disobedient act. It might not hold up in court, but it would speak loudly of love.

  3. I believe you and I believe you are speaking truth here. It is very sad that the Global Church body could not, would not, do this. We need a new way Bishop. I pray for the path to open and I believe the Holy Spirit will open one. It just may be some bushwhacking, at least at first. The current direction of 53% to 47% is untenable.

  4. No matter what side of this decision made by the United Methodist Church that we find ourselves on, I find encouragement in your blog, Bishop Laurie.

    You are a wonderful source of explanation, made easy to understand, about complicated decisions we make, and some that are made “for us.” I am grateful for your calm, loving and prayerful response and guidance in our trials and victories, and in our pain and joy. With all the societal and church concerns we have, you are an awesome example of light and hope.

    You are a blessing to your flock. You are a blessing to me. Thank you.

  5. Thank you Laurie.
    I was so disappointed with the decision. I told Phil that I didn’t feel like going to church on Sunday. He said that is exactly when I need to go. He was so right. The service was beautiful, beginning with the youth choirs choosing to wear multicolored sashes, and ending with the best, most inclusive service possible.
    Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in store for us?

  6. The question haunts me —”Why are we more fond of taking up the battle than taking up the cross?” Is it because the cross is simply too heavy— and the Church is yet to allow Christ to come along side and show a better way without first putting it to a vote? Gee, I sense the need to shake the dust from my feet and move on.

  7. How was it grace by Kuchar? He made a business decision to pay the guy more than he agreed to because it was bad PR in the newspapers. That’s not grace on his part from where I’m standing.

    Hopefully, we can all look past each others transgressions and remain together through one more summer. We’re all just day to day as they say.

  8. I love your thoughts today! Would that all United Methodists would show the unconditional love exemplified in Christ. What a witness we would surely be!

  9. Thank you for this post, Laurie! It is an excellent reminder of whom we are called to be: agents of grace and peace.

  10. I’ve thought (been thinking of course) that the church is, what sailors term “in irons”. Sailing right into the wind and not moving at all. So we tack (and tack, and tack) to catch the wind.

    A grand gesture is coming at the problem on a different tack (no pun intended). Big or small, the only answer is love.

  11. Having been raised in the United Methodist Church I have always felt we showed great affection for all God’s children. I was also taught that the Book of Disipline, along with the bible, was a guide book for Methodists. The Displine clearly states the Methodist’s belief regarding those who can and cannot serve and provides consequences for any that disobey. All clergy vow to follow the dispiline. I consider that to be sacred vow.
    Until there is a change made to the Book of Disipline regarding who can serve in the pulpit, we all need to continue to love on each other. If we continue to accept disobedience of vows without consequences we are not being true to our Discipline. I do not believe we can be considered united when there remains a major disagreement on this issue.

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