The U.S. Amateur Golf Championship is being decided this week at Atlantic Country Club’s Highlands Couse in Johns Creek, Ga. Although the competitors are not professionals, each is good enough to play any course in the world and shoot a score far better than most of us could.
A golf “handicap” golf is what your personal, normal, everyday score would be “against par.” If par is 72 and I usually shoot 80, my handicap is 8, or 8-over par. If I usually shoot 90, my handicap is 18. A “high-handicapper” shoots 20 or so over par. Pros, and the best amateurs, are “scratch” golfers: a normal outing for them is right around par, maybe a little over, maybe a little under.
So while “par for the course” in slang means average, par for the course in golf is very, very good.
While the best golfers have no “handicap,” they did begin with one. Nobody picks up golf clubs and consistently shoots par the first few times out. When we begin the game, we all have a handicap.
Speaking for us all, King David sang in sorrow of his handicap: “In sin did my mother conceive me.” And so it is for us all: we are born with a handicap, and not a small one. We have all sinned. None of us has a defense on our own.
In his book “Encounters with Jesus,” Timothy Keller illustrates through John’s Gospel just how lost we all are – and just how much we have in common. Read John 4 and read John 3, the stories of the Outcast (the woman at the well) and the Insider (Nicodemus). Different lives, same problem: totally lost.
But the good news is what Jesus did in reaching out to both of these people. In the same way and with the same gospel, gladly and with a sinless live and a final action that screamed his love for you through the ages, he has reached out to us. The “why” and the “what” of Jesus’ actions is the gospel, “and it is the same,” Keller (and John) remind us, “for skeptics, believers, insiders, outcasts, and everyone in between.”
“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” – John 3:7 (NIV)