As Christians, what do we do with Israel Folau?

What’s your thoughts on Israel Falou and his latest twitter post? As a Christian, if I am honest my immediate reaction was frustration. I felt he didn’t make my job as a Christian any easier. On the other side of the fence, secular commentators and Christian organisations have slammed his sacking by the Australian Rugby Union as anti-religion and anti-free speech.

The reason I engage in this topic is not to beat up on Israel, but because Christians the world over are working out how to be a witness in this world. Here are my thoughts:

Firstly, I don’t know the all circumstances or the full story so anything I say is in that light. I heard yesterday the post was in response to a question. Well that actually makes some difference – but probably not enough.

Beyond this I just don’t believe this is how God calls us to reach out to the world. Romans 2 tells us that it is ‘God’s kindness’ that leads us to repentance and we should be very careful in our judgement of others. Jesus tells us that he didn’t come to ‘condemn the world but to save the world’ (John 3:17). 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready with an answer but always to give it with ‘gentleness and respect’. These scriptures and more always lead me to believe that the way we reach people is through love and respect. Sure at some point knowledge of, and a conviction of sin is necessary, but it is ultimately His Holy Spirit that will bring conviction. At the very least I don’t think you can talk about sin and wrath without talking about grace and forgiveness. Certainly twitter is not an effective means of communicating these truths. Let’s also not forget the scripture that Israel quotes from in 1 Corinthians is written to Christians not the secular world.

I also don’t fully buy into the freedom of religion argument. We live in a modern world where all sorts of freedoms are curtailed for good reasons. How would I feel if somebody from another faith system started teaching my children under ‘freedom of religion’? Israel understood the code of conduct of Rugby Australia and as any good employee needs to abide by that code of conduct. Ask any teacher, nurse, doctor or government worker and all of them know there are acceptable limits to what can be shared.

What I like is that Israel does have the courage to follow his convictions, something we could all do with a bit more of from time to time. However, as Prov 19 tells us, zeal with knowledge is not good. I happen to know somebody who knows Israel reasonably well. By her account he is lovely man who has probably been unfairly typecast. My sense is Israel needs some good mentors in his life to guide him in his zeal and obedience.

Yes we live in a world that is highly offendable at present. Yes we should be concerned about the current trend to encroach on freedom of religion. Yes at times we will need to stand in the courage of our convictions in the face of opposition. But let’s face these things with wisdom and remember that we too are condemned but for the grace of Jesus.

Note: 11/7/2019 – since publishing this blog I have come to the view that Israel was within his rights to say what he did. Freedom of speech and religion stand. He simply quoted the bible in response to a question and no code of conduct should restrict this. However I hold that Twitter isn’t the right place to have this debate.

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