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?