by Mike Durbin – BSCM State Director of Evangelism
FENTON, MI – Golf courses are in full swing now (pardon the pun). Seeing golfers hit the greens this spring reminded me of a friend who introduced me to the sport. Herb was a faithful member of the church I served as pastor. He was also a high school assistant golf coach. He offered to teach me the basics of golf and give me some pointers. Herb was so patient as he tried to coach me: "Keep your eye on the ball. Here's how to hold your hands on the club. Keep your shoulders ...." Let's just say that I got to hit the ball a lot more than he did when we went golfing. It was a great time of fellowship, but golfing was not a hobby that stuck with me.
I did learn something from Herb that I never forgot. When I swung and missed the ball completely, or topped the ball and it rolled just a few feet, or sliced the ball and it went off the fairway, he called it a "mulligan." A mulligan is basically a "do-over." It's another chance to get it right. It's a fresh start. I needed a lot of mulligans! (For all you golfers out there, Herb did tell me that mulligan's are not a part of golf's official rules). For people like me, mulligans are essential not only for golf, but for life.
The reality is that we don't always get it right in life. We "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 6:23). That's what the word sin means in the Bible. It's to miss the mark. We could compare it to a golfer who can't sink the ball in the hole. He's off target with every shot and fails to hit the hole. It really doesn't matter in the long run if we are terrible
golfers and miss the mark, but sin always hurts our relationship with God and it almost always hurts someone in our lives. It leaves brokenness, heartache and pain in its path. When the inevitable consequences of sin take their toll, we long for another chance, a do-over, a "mulligan" to make it right.
God, in His amazing grace, has given us just that. It's called forgiveness. To forgive literally means to release someone from a debt that is owed. Forgiveness with God is possible because Jesus paid for our sins through His death, burial and resurrection. When we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus, our relationship with God is restored. We are transformed and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). We experience a new beginning, a do-over. Dare I say, a "mulligan?"
Sometimes, we need a "mulligan" in our relationship with others. Sin almost always hurts other people. Forgiveness makes it possible for us to move beyond the words and actions that damage or break our connection with them. A harsh word spoken or a harmful act done can never be unsaid or undone. It is forever recorded, but forgiveness allows us to release one another, and move past the failures. It's the "mulligan" we need to live in healthy relationship with each other.
Yes, I know it's just a game called "golf." But sometimes I see golfers on the course and I remember my friend. I think about the lesson he taught me about mulligans. I end up thanking Jesus for the many "do-overs" he has given me in life. Sometimes, I think about the "mulligans" I need from or for the people in my life.
Golf. I never picked up the game, but I sure learned a valuable lesson.