"What Would Jesus Say to... Series 3" part 3
What Would Jesus Say to... Tiger Woods?
by Greg Hanson

It was one year ago yesterday that Eldrick Tont Woods, better known as Tiger Woods, had his most difficult, most anticipated, and most memorable press conference ever (February 19, 2010). There were no questions allowed… Tiger simply entered the room, read a prepared statement, hugged his mother and some friends, and then left. Thirteen and a half minutes total.

I actually watched that press conference. You may remember that it was on a Friday morning during the Vancouver Olympics. I had been watching the coverage of the Games when it was interrupted to show the press conference live. And you could tell just by watching that it was a very difficult statement for Tiger Woods to read. Because it was during that press conference that Tiger first admitted to the world that he had cheated on his wife, and that he would be taking some time off from golf to focus on his family.

Oh, there had been lots of speculation and accusations ever since the previous American Thanksgiving when Tiger crashed his car while leaving his driveway late one night. There are still unanswered questions surrounding that event. The fact that his wife Elin smashed in the back window of the car led people to wonder if she was trying to save Tiger or attack him. And over the next couple of months, the headlines linked Tiger to as many as a dozen mistresses. The National Enquirer has since reported 120 affairs. But then, that’s the Enquirer.

Well, since that press conference last February, Tiger’s marriage has dissolved. In August, Elin filed for divorce. Plus, they share custody of their kids. So Tiger has really lost his family. Plus, Tiger lost several of his sponsors who wanted nothing to do with the scandal. And to top it all off, his golf game has suffered. He came back to competition, but went through 2010 without a single tournament victory.

Tiger’s world basically came down around him. Maybe you’ve never experienced that yourself. Or maybe you have. Maybe you know what it’s like to have your dreams destroyed and your world shattered.

If so, then this message is really for you this morning. Because we’re going to try to answer the question, “What Would Jesus Say to Tiger Woods?” And in the process, I think we’ll discover some things He would say to you and to me when we find our worlds shattered, too.

So let’s get going. The first thing I think Jesus would say to Tiger Woods in the midst of the fallout from the past year or so is…

1.    I love you.

Jesus would remind Tiger that regardless of what Tiger had done or the current state of his life, Jesus still loves him.

During those three years of Jesus’ public ministry while Jesus walked among us, He encountered a lot of people who had done some pretty shameful things. And the natural reaction for most people encountering sinners would be to shun them. It would be to keep their distance.

But not Jesus. Jesus did not cast blame; He offered love. While never condoning sin, He always expressed love to the down and out… the marginalized… the people who needed a good dose of compassion. And it didn’t matter what they had done; Jesus still loved them and expressed that love to them.

So before dealing with any issues, I think Jesus would first of all assure Tiger Woods that He still loves Him. And I think that’s the same thing He would tell you, regardless of what you’ve done or how unworthy you might feel. Jesus still loves you.

And in a warm-fuzzy fell-good brand of religion, that’s as far as it goes. Jesus loves you. But while I think that might be the first thing Jesus would say, I don’t think it’s the last thing. Whenever I need to discipline my son, I always remind him that I still love Him. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still get disciplined. He still has a time out or goes to his room or loses privileges… there are still consequences. So I think Jesus would go on to tell Tiger…

2.    There are consequences for your choices.

Jesus would say, “Tiger, I love you, but you’ve made some bad choices. And now you’re experiencing the consequences of those choices. You’ve been humiliated, you’ve become the target of gossip, you’ve become a punch line, you’ve lost your family… your wife and your kids… you’ve humiliated them… you’ve lost your sponsorships, it’s cost you millions of dollars, you haven’t been able to bounce back on the golf course… these are all consequences for your choices.” That echoes what Paul wrote to the Galatians…

Galatians 6:7 (NIV)
A man reaps what he sows.

In Tiger’s case, the biggest consequence has been the break up of his marriage. And you can certainly understand why Elin chose to leave him. Adultery is devastating to a relationship, and many marriages don’t survive.

And I’ve got to say, I’ve got nothing by respect for couples who choose to address their problems head on, work through them as painful as they can be, and are able to salvage the marriage. That can be a very difficult and long process, and the easy thing to do would be to call it quits. So for those who choose to work at it and seek counseling and are eventually able to reconcile and even rebuild trust… nothing but respect. That begin said, I can understand why Elin would have opted to divorce Tiger. That’s a consequence Tiger has faced. He’s reaping what he’s sown.

Now, some people—when they get involved in some sinful action or habit—buy into the lie that they are only hurting themselves. And somehow, that makes it okay. “As long as you’re not hurting anyone else.” But the truth is, even our secret sins have a way of affecting others. And eventually, even those secret sins will become known. As Jesus warned…

Luke 12:2 (NLT)
“The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.”

Often it’s during our lifetimes, but it’s always when we stand before God. And He knows everything we do… good or bad… privately or in public. So there are consequences, either good or bad, for everything.

3.    I’m in the forgiveness business.

“Yes, Tiger, you’ve messed up. You’ve messed up big time. And you’re going to face the consequences, but those consequences do not have to be final. They do not have to be eternal. I am ready and willing and able to forgive you.”

Some people find it difficult to believe that Jesus will really forgive people, regardless of what they have done. Well, if there were one person in the Bible that would have felt that way, it would have been Paul.

We generally know Paul to be a giant of the faith, the guy who wrote about half of the books in the New Testament, and the man responsible more than anyone else for spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community. But Paul had a life as a Christ-hater before he became a Christ-follower. In fact, his goal had been to completely eradicate Christianity and the newly forming Church. So he persecuted Christians and even watched on as some of them were killed. The most notable example of this is when Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7, which you can read for yourself. But at that time, the Bible tells us that Paul, who was then known as Saul, was looking on and giving his approval as Stephen was dying.

Yet this same persecutor of the Church went on to become one of its greatest proponents. He came to understand who Jesus is and just how great His love and forgiveness is. This is what Paul wrote to his apprentice, Timothy…

1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

Do you wonder if maybe Tiger feels that way right now? That he’s done some bad things and hurt people so severely that he’s not worthy of forgiveness?

You know, it might be easy to look at what Tiger has done and where he’s at in life and laugh at him. “How the mighty have fallen.” We like the drama of it—the scandal of it—and so we make him the butt of our jokes.

But Jesus never jokes about sin; He forgives it. There’s no question that Tiger has done some bad things. So have you and I. There are people who have done worse things, too. But Jesus offers forgiveness to everyone who will receive it.

Listen, compared to the incredible purity, integrity, perfection, and holiness of God, we all fall short. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how bad you are, none of us measure up to God’s perfect standard. The difference between the best of us and the worst of us is only matters of degrees. We are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

How about you? Do you get caught in the trap of thinking you’re “good enough” and don’t need to be forgiven? Or maybe you find yourself at the other end of the spectrum thinking that Jesus could never forgive you for what you’ve done. Either way, I’m here to tell you that it includes all of us. Jesus came to forgive every one of us. Despite anything you’ve done, God loves you and offers you His forgiveness.

4.    You must change your behaviour.

Several years ago, I was listening to a sermon by another pastor. And you’ve got to understand… I have a problem. You see, I actually listen to what people say. And what I heard that pastor said that day… I don’t think it was what he meant to say.

He was trying to draw our attention to the passage in John chapter eight where a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law as a way to trap Jesus. They brought the woman to Jesus and asked Him what they should do with her. If Jesus said to kill her, then that would be in keeping with Jewish law but would tick off the Romans. If Jesus said to let her go, then He would keep the Romans happy but would alienate Himself from the Jews. So it was really a way for the enemies of Jesus to try to trap Him and discredit Him.

Anyway, this pastor who was speaking on this passage introduced it by saying, “Think about the woman caught in adultery with me.” Well, that was news to me. I wasn’t aware of any woman who had been caught in adultery with him. Don’t you just love misplaced modifiers?

I don’t think that was exactly what he meant to say. But the passage he was referring to is a very powerful passage. This woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and so was brought before Jesus. Of course, the first question you want to ask is, “Where’s the guy?” As far as I know, adultery takes two people. But for whatever reason… probably because the guy wasn’t a necessary part of the plan to trap Jesus in His own words… this woman was brought alone before Jesus.

How do you think this woman would have felt? I imagine she was frightened. I imagine she was also incredibly embarrassed and ashamed. I’m sure she never expected her private affair to be made so public. But there she was, dirty laundry being aired.

Those of you who know this story already know what Jesus did next. When the people who brought the woman before Him asked what they should do with her, Jesus just squatted down and started drawing in the dirt. At one point, He stood up and told the crowd that whoever was completely without sin could throw the first stone. Then He stooped down to write on the ground again.

Of course, the question people have been asking for centuries is, “What was He drawing?” And the truth is, we don’t know. Some people speculate that he was writing the names of some of the people who were accusing this woman. Perhaps he was even writing the secret sins in their lives. As far as I know, He was just doodling, giving the accusers time to think about what they were doing to this poor woman. Whatever it was, one by one the crowd started to disperse. One by one, they began to walk away.

And once they were all gone, what did Jesus do? He stood up, looked at the woman, and asked…

John 8:10-11 (NIV)
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

That’s what I think Jesus would say to Tiger Woods. “Yes, Tiger, you messed up. You messed up big time. And there are going to be consequences. In fact, right now everyone knows what you’ve done and you’ve got to live with it just like that woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. But Tiger, I’m in the forgiveness business. I’m not going to condemn you. But… you’ve got to change your behaviour. Just stop it. Go and leave your life of sin.”

We talk a lot here at Sunrise about the forgiveness of Jesus. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how badly you’ve messed up, He can and will forgive you. But there’s a stipulation. He’s not giving you a free license to do whatever you want and He’ll always forgive you. He’s saying, “I’ll forgive you, but you’ve got to change your ways.” That’s the condition.

In other words, you’ve got to repent. And do you know what the word repent means? Here’s a dictionary definition…

Re·pent: to feel regret about a sin or past actions and change your ways or habits
~ Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation

It’s not just to feel bad; it’s to feel so bad that you change your ways. In fact, the Greek word used in the New Testament that we translate as “repent” literally means to change your mind. It’s not about feeling bad; it’s about change.

We just talked about how Paul described himself as the worst of sinners. Well, this very same Paul who experienced the forgiveness of God gives us this advice…

Acts 3:19 (NLT)
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.

If you’ve been participating in sinful practices—whether they have been in public or in private—you need to repent. You need to regret them so much that you are ready and willing to change your ways.

5.    Do whatever you can to make up for what you’ve done.

For Tiger Woods, part of this meant a reported $100 million settlement during the divorce proceedings and paying about $750 million in alimony over the next several years. So pretty close to a billion dollars. Some reports indicate that the amounts may be even higher. That’s pretty substantial, even for someone who has accumulated as much wealth as Tiger has.

Of course, money’s not going to solve everything. Tiger hurt a lot of people and disillusioned a lot of fans and lost a lot of respect and trust. And he needs to do what he can to make up for that. In his press conference, he even admitted…

“I have a lot to atone for.”
~ Tiger Woods

The New Testament tells the story of another man who had done wrong… who had cheated others… and he also had to make up for it. Take a look…

Luke 19:1-9 (NLT)
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today…”

Notice that in making amends, Zacchaeus did not nickel-and-dime it. He didn’t try to refund people just the amount he cheated them, or even the amount he cheated them plus interest. He repaid them four times as much. He more than made up for his wrongs. He was trying to make atonement. He made up for his wrongs, and then some.

I think this is a natural outflow of repentance. When you feel so bad about your past actions that you’re going to change your ways, you’re also going to want to make up for your past wrongs.

So here’s the question: Who have you wronged? And how can you make up for it? In some cases, maybe your options are limited. But are there ways you can make up for it… and then some?

6.    I can help you overcome your sinful impulses.

Okay, here’s what Tiger needs to hear and what you and I need to hear when it comes to our struggle with temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

You know the secret to overcoming sinful impulses? It’s responding as soon as you start to feel the tinge of temptation by removing yourself from the situation. When God shows you the way out, take it. Don’t hang around any longer than you have to.

In Tiger’s case, delete the phone numbers and email addresses, block them on Facebook, never meet with them alone… don’t play with fire. When you are tempted, don’t see how close you can get without getting burned. Get out of there. Eliminate the opportunity.

You know another secret to overcoming sinful impulses? Change your focus to something better. Fill your thoughts with good things. Take a look at these verses…

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Read the Bible, pray, change your focus away from the object of temptation to something more positive and beneficial. As you do, you’ll find that Jesus will help you overcome those sinful impulses.

7.    I can make you a brand new person.

So you don’t like yourself and the things you’ve done? Don’t worry about it – Jesus can make you brand new. Look in the Bible at how the Apostle Paul explained this in the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians… read it with me…

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
…Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

When God transforms your life, you’re a new person! He doesn’t just do a little housecleaning here or there… He transforms you so that at a heart level… at a soul level… you’re a brand new person.

Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.

That process of transformation begins the day that you welcome Jesus into your life. And it continues throughout your life. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit—we often call Him the third Person of the Trinity—to work in your life, changing you and transforming you into the person He intends for you to be.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

Sanctify, or sanctification, is one of those theological-sounding words. But basically, it means the Holy Spirit has free reign in your life. It means that He makes you holy… He purifies you. It means you have the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life so strongly that it’s palpable, and your response is to trust Him, to obey Him, to live in fellowship with Him, and to allow Him to work in your life making you more like Jesus.

That’s what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. He wants to make you new. He wants to make you more like Jesus. Will you let Him? Will you cooperate with Him? Will you trust Him and follow His guidance in your life? If you will, then He promises to keep on working in your life until the job is done.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Can I pray for you? Let bow our heads together. In fact, let me guide you in a prayer. I’ll pray out loud; you can pray silently. You can pray something like this…

Jesus, thank you for loving me no matter what. Thank you that I can always turn to you and depend on you, despite what’s happening in my life… even despite that times I mess up and cause my own problems.
Thank you, too, that you offer me forgiveness. No matter what I’ve done, Your forgiveness is real. I know that I may still have to face the consequences for choices I have made, but I know that I can be right with you. And that means everything to me.
For the ways that I have sinned… how I’ve hurt others and hurt You… I ask for your forgiveness and for your help in changing my behaviour. When I try to do the right thing on my own, I so often discover that I just can’t do it. So help me to change. Do your work in my life. I give You permission to change me from the inside out, from this moment on.


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson