In case you haven’t heard, last week Tiger Woods got into a little car accident and a whole lot of trouble. He has been accused of marital infidelity. Much has been said about this in both the secular media and the Christian blogosphere (e.g., “Hunting Tiger Woods” and “Cheaters, Tigers, and Idiots – Oh My!“).
On his website, Tiger Woods released a statement concerning the situation. The statement begins,
I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family.
Notice that he refers to his actions as “transgressions,” “faults,” and “failings.” But against whom did he transgress? For one, he transgressed against his family. He admits to “let[ting his] family down” and not being “true to . . . the behavior [his] family deserves.” If he did indeed commit adultery, then it is certainly true that he transgressed against his wife and children.
But who is the other person mentioned in the statement against whom Tiger transgressed? That’s right . . . himself. Notice again his statement: “I have not been true to my values.”
When I first read this, I immediately thought of an article I read some time ago that detailed an interview President Obama gave back in 2004 when he was running for the Senate. Here is the relevant portion (the interviewer refers to herself as “God Girl”):
GG: Do you believe in sin?
GG: What is sin?
OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
GG: What happens if you have sin in your life?
OBAMA: I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.
So what do Tiger Woods and President Obama have in common? Not their actions, for as far as we know President Obama has not been accused of marital infidelity.
No, Tiger Woods and President Obama have this in common: their view of sin as an offense against themselves and their own moral standards.
But it’s not just Tiger Woods and President Obama who speak this way. Last year John Edwards admitted to an extramarital affair in 2006. His statement began similarly:
In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs.
More examples could be found, I’m sure.
Is this the Biblical view of sin? No, the Bible says that sin is, first and foremost, transgression against God and His law. David recognized this after his sin with Bathsheba when he told God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4 ESV).
But the perspective that “sin” (if the word is even used) is an offense against one’s own moral standards is widely held in our culture. David Wells writes,
During the 1960s a new worldview emerged. To a great majority of Americans, it now became clear that the self had become the source of all values. . . . For what is reality except what I have experienced? What matters except what matters to me? What could be as important as what is feeling important to me right now? I am the mirror in which reality is reflected. All of it. At least all of it that is important to me (The Courage to Be Protestant [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008], 136, 141).
He believes a shift has taken place from “virtues” to “values.” Virtues are “aspects of the Good, or of Virtue. They are the moral norms that are enduringly right for all people, in all places, and in all times” (p. 143).
Values, on the other hand, “represent the moral talk of a relativistic world” (p. 146). They are things or standards that are important to people. So my values may not necessarily reflect your values. But I value my values, and you must respect that.
Actually, sin is not choosing to go against oneself. Sin is choosing to follow oneself—one’s own desires rather than God’s holy standard. And that is something each of us must guard against.
Let’s pray for Tiger Woods, his wife, and his children. Let’s pray that they will turn from self to God in repentence and faith in Christ. Let’s also pray that God will help us each to follow His way, not our own.