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Root for Tiger?

I’m conflicted about whether or not to root for Tiger Woods as he makes his return to golf in the Masters this week.

Okay, I’m really not all that conflicted — I don’t want him to win. But I caught a few seconds of the broadcast today and another guy watching started clapping when Tiger made a birdie putt. People at the course seemed to be cheering for him too.

And that made me start thinking — why are they rooting for him? Why am I not?

They’ re rooting for him because America loves a good redemption story. I’m not because it doesn’t feel like he’s earned it yet. 

His image has been shattered and he’s trying to pick up the pieces. He says lots of the right things, but does he really seem sincere? Not really, but he’s pretty tightly controlled most of the time. The way he has handled the media indicates that he still wants to control what people see about him, what they think. (His creepy new Nike ad does not help.)

But it hasn’t been that long. This is his first tournament since his life fell apart, his first competition, his first time back in the full glare of the spotlight. And he goes out and shoots a two-under the first day. Imagine if he wins — it will be difficult to find a news outlet talking about anything else.

Seems like he hasn’t earned our forgiveness yet, he hasn’t shown enough repentance, hasn’t shown us that he has truly changed from the self-absorbed, me-first star who made a mockery of his marriage. He doesn’t deserve my cheers, my praise. He needs to struggle through a few tournaments first, get booed and derided and shamed. Then maybe I’ll think about pulling for him.

Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not. His transgressions were pretty egregious. To prove he has changed will take some time and some work. He burned us once — it’ll take a while to earn back trust.

But here’s the thing — God’s forgiveness isn’t like that. You can’t earn it, work for it, add to it or suffer for it. It’s a free gift of grace, unmerited and undeserved, now and forever.

Forgiveness means a clean start, and in the few seconds I saw him today, Tiger seemed more relaxed, more loose, more cheerful. How could he not be compared to all he was carrying around before?

To be truly free, he needs the forgiveness of his Maker. (Yeah, that means Brit Hume was right.) And he can’t earn that. All he has to do is ask for it.

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