A nation of rugby fans go to bed tonight with a sense of tragedy in their gut.
It was only last Saturday that Israel Folau was soaring above all at Eden Park. This evening he has been firmly grounded. Dead and buried.
I am a minister and I, like Israel Folau, try and lead people to Jesus. Could I share with you some insight into what he might be thinking? I can’t know for sure what is in his head but he isn’t the first young Christian to make these mistakes. This little insight might not remove your sense of tragedy but it might give you some clarity.
» Tah-Tah, Izzy: Rugby Australia, NSW Rugby confirm they’ll sack Folau
» Rugby union would be a more inclusive, kinder place without Israel Folau and his backwards views
» Folau slammed over anti-gay comments
» NRL boss: Folau not welcome in rugby league
» Opinion: Israel Folau does not deserve the sack
Israel Folau is probably driven by love and not hate. That sounds crazy I’m sure but think of it like this. If your best mate is getting involved with a married woman and you just know that is going to end badly, is it loving to stay silent? If your other friend has gone from drinking on the weekend to drinking every night is it not loving to suggest to them that they might have a problem?
Sometimes pointing out a person’s failures is an act of love.
Christians believe sin will ruin you. Folau may well see the world not following the law he so firmly believes in and he is compelled to alert them of the danger they are in. He wants to save them. So he tells them.
Further to that, he would not hate gays or drunkards and such. Christians identify as sinners. That’s the religion. A bunch of sinners saved by Jesus.
Christians think everyone is a sinner. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, the whole lot of us. Christians talk about sin openly. To say someone is a sinner is not to hate them.
I was too slow to defend at outside centre. If my coach told me so it wouldn’t mean he hated me. If a Christian thinks someone is a sinner it doesn’t mean they hate them.
There are things in the Bible about not being judgmental but in a sense Israel isn’t doing that. He is just stating that certain things are bad (according to his belief system) and you need to deal with them.
So Israel is not expressing hate, he is trying to do the right thing by God. Unfortunately, he just isn’t doing it very well.
He uses really old language like “fornicators”. He sounds like a manic street preacher raging at passers-by. He uses memes with hellfire flames and only uses the harshest, most dramatic verses in the Bible.
That just doesn’t work anymore.
He isn’t sensitive to how the world is becoming kinder to homosexuals. Even if he is convicted that it is sin, the fact the world is trying to rid itself of anything that could make a homosexual person feel excluded is a good thing. He should be sensitive.
But worst of all, he is a master at telling people they are sinners but terrible at telling them Jesus loves them.
The Gospel is called “the good news” and wise preachers focus on that, the whole ‘Jesus died for us because he loved us part’.
Maybe there will be a time when a person needs to be told they sin, but this should be done gently and lovingly. Not with a bad Instagram meme.
Jesus, the ultimate example, loved first. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, he didn’t shout their sins at them.
If only Folau spent his time doing things like that. Maybe he does. I wish he would put that on Instagram.