Israel Folau can testify to this truth. Earlier this month, Folau wrote on social media that gays would go to hell unless they repented their sins. He followed it up with another tweet, using a Bible quote from Matthew 5: 11-12 to suggest he was being persecuted for his beliefs. “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake, Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Picture: Israel Folau celebrates after scoring a try during the Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the Argentina Pumas last year.
The comments sparked widespread debate over Folau’s right to free speech and threats by rugby’s main sponsor Qantas to pull its support for the code if the star player continued to make similar comments. Rugby Australia chief executive, Raelene Castle and Waratah’s boss Andrew Hore held crisis talks with Folau last week in Sydney. Following the meeting Castle conducted a press conference in which she said Folau’s social media posts were at odds with the code’s inclusion policy.
“This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.’’
“I felt Rugby Australia CEO, Raelene Castle misrepresented my position and my comments, and did so to appease other people, which is an issue I need to discuss with her and others at Rugby Australia,” he said.
“I love rugby union. It has allowed me to travel all over the world and meet some fascinating people along the way. It is one of the best things about the game in my opinion.
“I do not want to bring hurt to the game and want as many people playing it as possible, so when I spoke to Raelene about walking away, it was to help the game, not harm it, in the event we couldn’t come to an understanding. Anyone who knows me knows I am not the type to upset people intentionally.”
Specifically he denies claims that he is homophobic or that he has a problem with gay people.
“I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.
“Every individual in this world is different and we have all experienced things that have shaped us in unique ways.
“I don’t pretend to have all the answers in life. It can be difficult making the right decisions. You are always trying to reconcile the truth from the Bible with things you feel inside. But I have faith that God’s path is the right one and that path is outlined in the Bible.”
Folau used the Players Voice article to explain his deep religious conviction. “People’s lives are not for me to judge. Only God can do that, I have sinned many times in my life. I take responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily. I understand a lot of people won’t agree with some of the things I’m about to write. That’s absolutely fine. In life, you are allowed to agree to disagree. But I would like to explain to you what I believe in, how I arrived at these beliefs and why I will not compromise my faith in Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of every single thing in my life.
“I hope this will provide some context to the discussion that started with my reply to a question asked of me on Instagram two weeks ago. I read the Bible every day. It gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find in any other area of my life. It gives me direction. It answers my questions.’’
Folau says he considers “it is a loving gesture to share passages from the Bible with others. I do it all the time when people ask me questions about my faith or things relating to their lives, whether that’s in-person or on my social media accounts’’.
“Two weeks ago, I tore my hamstring quite badly in the opening minutes against the Brumbies. I was told I would be on the sidelines for a month. Finding out I would miss three or four games so early in the season was disappointing and frustrating, but I accepted the news and started looking ahead. That afternoon I put up the following Instagram post, referring to James 1: 2-4:
“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, because the testing of your faith produces endurance … so that you may be lacking in nothing.”
“In the comments section of that post, I was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people.
“My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
“I do not know the person who asked the question, but that didn’t matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.’’
“I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?
“In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people.’’
“I would sooner lose everything — friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot — and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him.’’
Folau says he doesn’t “expect everyone to believe what I believe’’. “That goes for teammates, friends and even family members, some of whom are gay,’’ he writes. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers in life. It can be difficult making the right decisions. You are always trying to reconcile the truth from the Bible with things you feel inside. But I have faith that God’s path is the right one and that path is outlined in the Bible. I will keep sharing that.’’
Will we stand up for our faith as Israel Folau does? God has enabled us with the Holy Spirit, so we need to allow Him to direct our steps this day and onward. Lord I pray, not my will but Your will be done in my life.