A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, July 24, 2015

If John Wesley Played Golf

To the best of my knowledge, John Wesley, the 18th century founder of Methodism never played golf. That's too bad because the strategy behind playing a good round of golf matches his view on his theological understand of "sanctification" to a "tee." Did I just make a pun?

Wesley taught that we are to strive for Christian perfection which he defined as being in a state of loving God and neighbor completely. Wesley also took sin seriously and was well aware that sin can keep us from being made perfect in love in any given moment. 

For Wesley, perfection is a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news is that in any given moment, God's grace is being extended to us to enable us to love God and neighbor completely. The bad news is that we do not always avail ourselves to God's grace and we allow sin to keep us from being made perfect in this life.

Like Wesley's understanding of Christian perfection, golf is also a good news/bad news sport. The good news is that in any given moment, we can get a hole in one or at least make par. The bad news is that we do not always avail ourselves to what we need to do to make this happen. We might have a poor swing technique, choose the wrong club, or utilize a bad strategy. Any of these variables can lead to a golf shot that is less than perfect.

My computer wallpaper photo of a par three tee shot that landed an inch from the hole reminds me that golf perfection is always possible. It's not very often that my par 3 tee shot lands on the green or gets that close to the hole which is why I took this photo to savor that moment!

In a similar way, we may not reach Christian perfection in this life like John Wesley said was possible, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying. Remember, in any given moment, God's grace is always being extended to us so that we can love God and neighbor fully. God is always giving us the right swing technique, the perfect club choice, and the best strategy in any given situation, but it's up to us to receive these gifts and live out our faith the way God intends.

Any golfer will tell you that what keeps them coming back to play golf is that one really good shot they had during the previous round. Just because you don't get a hole in one doesn't mean you should give up on the game of golf. 

Getting closer to perfection is the name of the game. It's also the name for how we are to live out our faith each day.


Freeborng said...

Thank you, Pastor McDowell, for the article. It is a unique take on Wesley. I miss playing golf, was blessed to play from an early age when my grandfather introduced me to the game. Although he's been gone for nearly two decades, I miss him dearly. He would pick me up from middle school and high school a couple days each week to get in 9 holes. Living in Florida, he would say that with playing golf in the heat of Florida, it's not the heat that gets you, but the humility. I think Wesley would say the same thing about our walk with God.

If you interest, I just finished my opening novel in a trilogy about Francis Asbury. The Asbury Triptych Series opens with the book, Black Country, detailing the early preaching circuits of a young Francis Asbury. My nearly twenty years of research on Asbury led me to write this book which attempts to shed some light on his early circuits. As you may know, this has not been attempted since his death in 1816. The website for the book Black Country and the series is www.francisasburytriptych.com. Feel free to browse the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you for your post.

Robert McDowell said...

Very interesting, Freeborn! Thank you for sharing about your work on Asbury.