The name of Israel Folau is well-known in Australia, and perhaps is becoming somewhat known overseas too. He’s the rugby player who got into trouble with Rugby Australia for an Instagram post. He shared the love of Christ for sinners and the message of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that unrepentant sinners are heading for hell. If you’re familiar with the passage, you know that several types of unrepentant sinners are mentioned: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. But it was just the mention of homosexuals that made so many people irate and ended up costing Folau his job as a footballer. Apparently the drunkards and adulterers are not so easily offended.
He’s challenging that decision in court as a matter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. A few days ago, he set up a GoFundMe page and it quickly raised a lot of cash for his case. However, GoFundMe pulled the plug on it. The Australian Christian Lobby has now taken over the fundraising. They’re hoping to raise $3 million.
It’s important to realize what’s at stake here. It’s the freedom to openly share biblical teaching about repentance and salvation. If Israel Folau is not allowed to do that, it won’t be long before no one is allowed to do that in Australia, including me as a gospel preacher. This is where the erosion of freedoms begins. We don’t have to take it sitting down. We’re allowed to fight for the freedom to share the gospel using the legitimate means available to us. If something is important to us, why wouldn’t we fight for it?
I probably don’t see eye to eye with Israel Folau on any number of theological issues. It doesn’t matter. The world perceives him as a Christian and me as a Christian. To them we’re on the same page and for that reason we’re shoulder to shoulder. They’re going to treat us the same and the spread of the gospel is affected one way or another. I’m reminded of something Bill Muehlenberg wrote yesterday on his blog, adapting from someone else from an earlier era:
In Australia they came first for Archbishop Julian Porteous, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a cleric.
Then they came for Bernard Gaynor, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for Margaret Court, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a tennis player.
Then they came for Lyle Shelton, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a lobbyist.
Then they came for Israel Folau, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a footballer.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
It’s time for us to speak up. Whether you’re here in Australia or overseas, can you help? See here for the ACL page where you can contribute to the legal costs to fight for religious freedom and freedom of speech in Australia.
By the way, don’t listen to the media on this issue. They’re completely biassed against Folau.