If you didn’t already know, an 8th grader played in the biggest golf tournament of the year. Guan Tianlang is supposedly just like any normal 14-year-old. By any measure, though, being the youngest player to qualify for the tournament in Masters history makes this kid special. Tianlang was even able to play a few practice rounds with his hero, Tiger Woods, a surreal experience for the youngster to be sure. Other than getting penalized for “slow play” on Friday, Tianlang did pretty darn well: his worst hole was a bogey. Not bad for an 8th grader, huh?

I find the sports world’s reaction to Tianlang fascinating and well worth attention. Last week, Nick alluded to the sports culture’s (and our) inevitable tendency to rank individuals by their performance — something oh so common both in sports and in life. What caught my interest over the weekend was this: the vast majority of the rhetoric surrounding Tianlang on major sports networks emphasized how amazing it is that he qualified for the tournament, not picking apart the shortcomings of his game. The sports world, in seeming unison, highlighted how extraordinary this feat really is — as did fellow golfers — not drawing attention to his performance. In other words, they just celebrated something worth celebrating, leaving, at least for a moment, the judgment at home.

The religious world is not much different than the sports one in its tendency to do more nitpicking than celebrating: more “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…but how are you doing spiritually?” and less “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. This is incredible, now let’s revel in it and soak it up!” It’s easy to view the culture (and in our case, sports world) as cold-blooded and relentless, but I have to admit, I’m not all that different.

Approaching Tianlang with our law-goggles on would go something like: “That’s nice he’s only an 8th grader, but how did he actually play on the golf course?” Perhaps a more gracious approach would go something like: “Wow, he’s only 14, and he played in the Masters! Wow. Wow. Wow. WOW!!!!”

When the Prodigal Son returned home in Luke 15, they had a party; they purely celebrated. The nitpicking was thrown out the window. How wonderful. We all know nitpicking always sabotages the best parties.

Guan Tianlang is 14 years old, and he played in the Masters. Wow. Wow. Wow. WOW!!!