Links Daily Devotional

Christ and the Church

…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25, NIV)

As May moved into June, I experienced golf in several beautiful ways.

I spent a Saturday afternoon caddying for a young player in the City Am. The tournament features a 120-player field of college bombers, former mini-tour players, high school upstarts, and a few unlikely dreamers. It’s the place for golfers to be on Memorial Day weekend, and since I love to think through the game with someone who can really stripe it, I always jump at the chance to caddy here.

The Jesus we say we love wants us to engage with his people, the whole breadth of them, with all their quirks and foibles.By Tuesday I was in Monterey, at Poppy Hills, accompanying one of my players in the California High School State Championship. This was the first time in my 11 years of coaching that I had a player go so far, and this practice round was a unique opportunity to plan a strategy for the highest level of competition.

The next day I walked Poppy Hills again, this time as “just a spectator,” walking the course with my player’s family and his college coach. Hundreds of players from section championships had been reduced to 250 for the two region championships and now 54 for the State title. This young man finished tied for 12th. It was a wonderful result on a day marked by glorious weather and the recognition that on his final day of high school competition, he had come as far as he could come.

Finally, like many of you, I spent some weekend time on the couch, watching the Memorial Tournament action from Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, a course I’ve had opportunity to play more than once. I most enjoy watching Tour events contested where I have played. The references are so familiar.

Yes, there are so many wonderful things to enjoy about golf. And then you have to play it.

Playing the game and watching from your living room, the edges of the fairway, or even on a good player’s bag—these are not at all the same. When we play the game, the poor swings, missed shots, and feeble putt attempts are all our own. The pressure sits in our gut and the score on the board is written next to our name.

This is why people don’t connect with a church. Jesus is wonderful. I like him. I like what he’s done for me. I’ll read the Bible often enough, and maybe even a Christian book my wife wants me to read. I might post a faith-alluding quote on my social media app and keep a Christian friend or two. But don’t ask me to do church. Too much expectation. Too much involvement. Church is for the religious people. I can appreciate Jesus from here just fine.

In the game or around the game? The difference is greater than we want to admit. But we’re called to the first. The Jesus we say we love wants us to engage with his people, the whole breadth of them, with all their quirks and foibles. Like owning your own golf game, this isn’t always easy, but it’s what needs to happen for you to be counted as a “player,” to identify with the one who died for the church.

Jeff Hopper
June 19, 2017
Copyright 2017 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at