2019-04-16 by W.M.
A message to Folau: The world doesn’t need more judgmental Christians
Israel Folau’s future in rugby is in doubt after his pronouncements last week.
OPINION: O Israel – why? This plea could be straight from scripture referring to Israel the nation but instead it was being uttered by many last week – including me – about one of Australia’s greatest rugby players.
I admire Israel Folau as not only a sportsperson but as a man who won’t compromise his beliefs and is not afraid to stand up for Christ. I respect others who have also been criticised for their beliefs, such as Margaret Court. Freedom of religion is paramount in a society like Australia and no one should be condemned for holding firm convictions.
Yet, as Christians, it is equally important to look at ourselves and our own failings and imperfections. If you look at the list of sins that Izzy listed there’s not too many people he’s left out, including Christians. There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t told a lie or put something before God (idolatry).
While sin is a real issue, the God I know and seek to follow is a God of love. He says that He did not come to condemn the world, He came to save it. And as Christians we would do well to follow the example of the founder of our faith. I believe there is a heaven and a hell but if you study scripture you won’t read about Jesus screaming to people that they are all going to hell. In fact Jesus, John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul, all kept their harshest criticism for those who were religious and judgmental.
* Castle: Folau ignored warning
* Cheika: I won’t pick Folau again
* Hansen: Folau ‘let himself down’
* Folau to be given breach notice
* Folau unrepentant over posts
* Rugby Australia digs own hole
* Folau’s grounds for legal claim
* Folau’s act of self-sabotage
* Where’s Maria Folau in this?
* Wallabies better without Folau
In 40 years of telling people about the good news of Jesus, I have seen that the “turn or burn”, approach to proclaiming the message of Christianity alienates people. Scaring people doesn’t draw them into the love of Jesus.
God cared so much for the eternity of humankind that he sent his only son to die in order that he might make a way for restoration and reconciliation. The problem with harsh comments in the media and disparaging statements on social media is that they create a further wedge between God and people.
The world doesn’t need more judgmental Christians. In the eyes of many, the church is not relevant to their lives and is seen to be stuck in the past.
But this is not the church I know. The church is a group of diverse (and imperfect) people who have all been captivated and adopted into the same story – with Jesus at the centre. The central storyline of our faith is a story of love and redemption, a story of forgiveness and acceptance, a story of undeserved grace and unreserved mercy. I have been the grateful recipient of all of these truths, and so has Folau, Court and anyone else who has personally experienced the love of Christ.
I would never compromise the integrity of Biblical teaching and I believe that the Bible is clear about the consequences of sin. However, as Christians we are first called to love God and love other people, including those who believe differently to us.
I hope Izzy is extended some grace from all Australians. He is young and sincere and passionate about his relationship with God. We have all made mistakes when it comes to speaking too quickly, judging too harshly or being blinded by our own stubbornness. The world is a better place when we all look at ourselves and recognise our own human failings, and we can extend the same grace to him as we’d like others to show us.
– Brian Houston is the global senior pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney