Law and Grace Between the Hedges

The Georgia Bulldogs came into yesterday’s game with something to prove. After suffering a humiliating loss to Alabama two weeks ago, and losing Heisman candidate running back Nick Chubb to a gruesome knee injury in last week’s loss to Tennessee, Georgia faced a home matchup with the Missouri Tigers, who have won the SEC East two years straight and entered yesterday’s game with the top passing and scoring defense in the conference. Georgia’s hopes of catching up to current SEC East leader Florida rode on the Dawgs’ ability to come away from yesterday’s game with a W.

The game was low-scoring and tight, with both teams failing to reach the endzone. With 5:40 remaining in the game, it fell to Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan to put the Dawgs ahead by making a routine 24-yard field goal.

He sent it wide left.

Four minutes later, with the score tied 6-6, Marshall was given another opportunity to put Georgia ahead, this time with less than two minutes to play.

Before the play, Coach Mark Richt could be seen on the sideline, his arms around Morgan’s helmet, looking him in the eye, speaking intently into his facemask. In his post-game press conference, Coach Richt recounted what he said to his kicker with the game on the line:

Richt:Morgan

“I looked him in the eye and said ‘Look son, I want you to know I love you no matter what happens.’ … I just think student athletes – and maybe people in general – sometimes feel like, ‘When I produce, I’m lovable – I can be loved. But if I don’t produce, I don’t deserve love.”

Marshall Morgan went out and kicked a 34-yard game-winning field goal. Georgia snapped a two-game losing streak. And the Bulldogs got their first win without a touchdown in twenty years.

There’s something I’ve found to be true about people – when confronted with the pressure to meet a standard of perfection, we don’t. We simply can’t. We can’t possibly meet every deadline, check every box, or produce at a high level at all times, and we all live with the constant awareness that we can’t do everything right. It affects every aspect of our lives, from our jobs to our relationships, and the exhortation from bosses, spouses, parents, and pastors to “shape up, try harder, act right, be better” is of no comfort to anybody. In fact, it’s more like a cruel joke.

This is because The Standard of Perfection can’t produce in us what it’s asking of us. As long as there’s scorekeeping involved we will fail, and even well-meaning people who encourage us to work hard to improve plant seeds in our hearts that grow into forests of condemnation. There’s only one solution to our dilemma: we have to unplug the scoreboard. The only way to win is to refuse to play the game.

That’s what grace makes possible. Where The Standard says, “If you produce I will love you, but if you don’t produce we’re not going to get along,” Grace says, “I love you no matter what.” And, as it so happens, the environment of Grace is a greenhouse where growth can actually occur.

If you’re a leader, a boss, a parent, or a pastor, you have to understand this. How you react when your employees, followers, or children fail to meet The Standard is of critical importance. You have to choose now to turn off the scoreboard. You have to choose now to say to your people, “I love you no matter what,” and mean it.

“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20)

(Picture courtesy of @Dawgs247 on Twitter)

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