Almost every single sporting game involves the use of established boundaries and penalizes players for going “out of bounds.” Whether we’re playing football, baseball, soccer, the gymnastics floor exercise or the game of golf, every honest player accepts the established boundaries and agrees to abide by the official rules of the game. And, if you’ve ever played with “a cheater”, you know that they disgrace the spirit of the game and bring dishonor themselves — not to mention suck a lot of fun out of the competition as well.
You see the thrill of any sport is the challenge of improving one’s skills through practice and increasing in one’s mastery of the game. No game draws upon this desire for mastery through repetition and practice more than the game of golf. Experiencing incremental improvement and gradually lower scores is intoxicating, making golf a borderline obsession and addiction for many.
Yet, those who love and respect the game of golf also respect the rules of the game that hold all players to the same standard. One of the most basic rules of the game that all players naturally honor are signified by those white stakes lining the perimeter of each hole: the “out of bounds” posts.
We should not be surprised then to find that the Creator of the “game of life” has some basic rules and regulations that allow maximum enjoyment and fair play among the human field of participants. We should not be surprised if God has carefully and wisely provided human beings with His own boundaries. The Bible reveals God’s rule book for human living and when our behavior goes out of bounds it is called “sin.” And this is not a popular word today.
But the Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) usually translated as sin in the New Testament literally means “to miss the mark” or “to miss the target.” I would say an accurate translation would also include “living out of bounds.” Ironically we find ourselves living in a secular culture that almost universally rejects the idea of objective moral boundaries — God-given “rights and wrongs.” Those who deny the existence of universal, objective moral boundary lines are called “moral relativists.”
Maybe a good way to convince such folks of the existence of and need for moral restraints and boundaries is to invite them out to the golf course for a round or two. They may discover a new and more positive perspective on why we need not fear or reject such boundaries but should instead desire to respect them and keep ourselves within bounds.
Consider the following two thoughts on why we should avoid “going out of bounds” in both golf and life.
1. The white stakes are not arbitrary markers placed randomly around the course to make your game miserable or bring your score up. They mark off unplayable ground filled with trees, ponds, high weeds, rocks, pavement and other obstacles that cause havoc for any golfer. This is precisely why God gives us moral standards to uphold. They are put there to keep our lives pure and healthy and prevent unnecessary pain, conflict, guilt and regret.
2. The wise golfer keeps their ball in the center of the fairway where the lie is best and the angle to the green optimal. Only the most foolish golfer would try to play as close to the white stakes as possible without going out of bounds. Why is life any different? Why do so many live their lives in such a way as to get as close as they can to the fire without getting burnt? Shouldn’t we play life’s fairway instead?
Ask the moral relativist who insists on ignoring the rules and boundaries in life if they would like to eliminate the rules and accepted boundaries for their favorite sport? I suspect they may want to protect the integrity and honor of the game. Now, isn’t the game of life the most precious game to honor? Let the following passage direct your next tee shot:
As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by playing the game of life as I should! I will obey your Holy Rule Book. Please don’t disqualify me. How can a young person keep themselves in bounds? By playing by your rules. I have tried hard to find you — don’t let me hit my ball out of bounds. I have a great respect for your rules, that I might not go out of bounds” (Psalm 119:7-11 My Paraphrase).