Virtual Voices

Winning Tiger Woods

Sports

Three years ago there was no question that Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the world. He was so good that people expected him to win every event he entered. He intimidated opponents into failure. It is almost impossible to exaggerate how great Woods was at his peak.

Then Woods' personal life collapsed. After a car crash in his own driveway and sketchy reports about an ugly dispute with his then-wife, it came to light that Woods was quite the philanderer. In the end 12 different women came forward with claims of inappropriate relationships with him. Consequently, Wood's life fell apart. His wife divorced him and took their children, he suffered a career-threatening knee injury, and his once flawless golf game collapsed. He went from marketable superstar and the favorite in every tournament to barely making the cut.

Woods was roundly and soundly demonized. From David Letterman's opening monologues to many a pastor's pulpit, epithets, jokes, and mockery abounded toward Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. Many golf fans, especially Christians, spoke passionately about how they could never support him again because of his behavior.

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This past Sunday, Woods shot a final round 67 at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village in Ohio to capture his 73rd PGA Tour victory. His performance was so impressive it had even the legendary Nicklaus, with whom Woods is now tied for career victories, gushing. After his traditional red shirt-wearing, fist-pumping performance, it appears Woods might be ready to reclaim his title as best golfer in the world.

Now, as Woods re-ascends the ranks of golf's elite, as I hope he does, it is worth considering how we will think and act toward him.

Many people ceased rooting for Woods because of his behavior, whether it was petulant and profane tantrums on the course or womanizing off it. And understandably so. Golf isn't a team sport. We don't root for uniforms. We root for individuals. And this individual disappointed and disgusted many. But I think there are a couple points worth considering.

One of the reasons people most often mention for refusing to support Woods is that it would condone his behavior. I don't think so. To root for someone to drill that 16-foot birdie putt is not to support his lifestyle. More importantly, we must remember that it is our lives that condone or caution against certain behaviors. Nobody in his right mind looks at you and thinks, "You like Tiger Woods? You must approve of adultery." But they absolutely will look at you and say, "You love your wife and are faithful to her? You must not like adultery."

Finally, I think we must consider the message it sends when we boycott a person for their behavior. Boycotting a human is different than boycotting an organization or an event. It's personal. What does the world see when Christians distance themselves from Woods? Do they see anything that draws them to Christ? It's our mission to win sinners, not condemn them. With that in mind, consider this question: "Would Tiger Woods be more likely to follow Jesus because of your reaction to him?"

Listen to Barnabas Piper's commentary on Tiger Woods on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

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