GREAT OUTCOME FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN OZ

Israel Folau says he has been “vindicated” by Rugby Australia’s apology and says he is now “looking forward” to the federal government enacting legislation protecting the right to religious expression. 

In the video below posted to his website, Folau appeared with his wife Maria beside him and spoke of his reaction to the confidential settlement with Rugby Australia on Wednesday.

“We are extremely pleased with the settlement reached today,” he said.

“With today’s acknowledgement and apology by Rugby Australia we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family.”

Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) played a significant role in the settlement and Martyn Isles in particular is proving to be God’s man for this time in leading ACL.

God has used Israel Folau and this incident with Rugby Australia to achieve two of His purposes.

The first to get Scott Morrison in place as the Prime Minister of Australia. The Folau incident occurred just prior to the election. It galvanised Christians and some non Christians to vote for the conservative party. The fact that Israel, possibly the best rugby player on the Australian team, could be sacked because he quoted Scripture on Facebook about God’s position on gay marriage, made many realise that it was wrong, and they could not support the opposition party that supported it.

The second is the vindication received today just before the government enacts legislation to protect the right to religious expression. It must influence the government to ensure others like Folau are not persecuted for their faith.

I hope this demonstrates to all Christians the importance of standing up publicly for Christ and His values regardless of the cost.

A DAY OF FIRE IN A NATION OF EXTREMES

While people north of Toowoomba were being evacuated from their homes as a massive firefront approached, a few hundred kilometres away the Sunshine Coast was being pummelled by giant hailstones.

Hailstones between 2cm and 6cm, about the size of a cricket ball, fell between the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast as three severe thunderstorms moved across the coast just after 2pm on Sunday.

These events prompted Israel Folau to wade back into controversy, claiming the fires and drought are God’s punishment for legalising same sex marriage and abortion.

We know that the Bible says God is sovereign over everything and history shows us that God does use catastrophes for His purposes. He also tells us that in the “end times”, droughts, famines, pestilences and earthquakes will increase. Sadly, Christians, even our Prime Minister, do not believe it is helpful for Israel, nor anyone else for that matter, to suggest that God is involved in anyway in the current catastrophes. I am not sure what they do with the following Scripture.

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 4:13-14

Churches across Australia are not only offering practical support to victims, firefighters, and communities, but are also praying for rain, for repentance, and for God’s plan in people’s lives to be strengthened even through difficulty but they also need to be warning people of the consequences of turning their back on God and His commandments.

In Queensland the number of fires facing emergency services jumped from 82 at 2pm on Sunday to 94 four hours later. A spokeswoman for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said storms in extreme fire conditions could be more of a hindrance than a help, with several new fires likely starting from lightning strikes.

NSW also remains in a state of emergency, with severe fire danger ratings issued for New Eng­land, the Northern Slopes and northwestern regions on Saturday. Total fire bans are in effect in those areas, as well as the far north coast, which has been issued a very high fire danger. As of 8pm on Sunday, 60 bushfires were burning across the state.

DIVINE PROVIDENCE FOR ISRAEL FOLAU

In a landmark judgement, the Court of Appeal has upheld the rights of UK Christians to freely express their faith by handing victory to former student social worker Felix Ngole.

The Court of Appeal (COA, formally “Her Majesty’s Court of Appeal in England”)[4] is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales,, and second in the legal system of England and Wales only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Overturning a High Court decision to uphold Felix’s expulsion from Sheffield University, the crucial outcome represents a major development of the law. It is now clear that Christians have the legal right to express Biblical views on social media and elsewhere in public without fear for their professional careers.

This is the first Court of Appeal judgement regarding freedom of expression of Biblical views which sets limits on the rights of professional regulators to limit free speech on social media. The ruling is an authoritative statement of the law, likely to be relied upon in hundred of current and future cases.

Felix Ngole’s win in this landmark case in the UK has enormous implications for Israel Folau’s case against Rugby Australia.

“The university wrongly confused the expression of religious views with the notion of discrimination,” the three High Court ­appeal judges concluded yesterday. “The mere expression of views on theological grounds (for example, that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.”

Christian lobby groups in Australia have seized upon the judgement as a win for freedom of religious expression, saying it could be “manna from heaven” for sacked former rugby union star Israel Folau in his legal battle against Rugby Australia.

They say the four-year legal battle waged by Felix Ngole against the University of Sheffield bears similarities to Folau’s experience after he was sacked by RA over his biblical “go to hell” post in April.

“This will send chills down the spine of Rugby Australia,’’ Human Rights Law Alliance chief John Steenhof said yesterday.

“Israel Folau and his team will be thanking God for divine ­providence.’’ And so they should.

FOLAU’S FAITH COMPELLED HIM TO SHOUT A WARNING: REPENT

This article by Kel Richards appeared in this morning’s newspaper The Australian. Thousands of Australians will read and be challenged by this Gospel message. I never thought I would see the Gospel preached so well in a major Australian newspaper.

Israel Folau was only following God’s command:

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all suffering and teaching.”  2 Timothy 4:1-2

Israel Folau criticised several groups in his Instagram post, but only one of them has complained.

“On April 10, Israel Folau posted on his Instagram account the following message: “Warning: Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators: Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” Next to this big, bold statement was the message: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

This eye-catching text was from the Bible, a loose paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

If someone else had posted this it would almost certainly have slipped under the radar. But Folau was being watched. Partly this is because of his brilliance as a footballer. He holds the record for the most tries scored in Super Rugby. In 2007 he won rugby league’s Dally M Rookie of the Year award for having scored the most tries in his debut year. In that same year he was the all-time youngest international player (he was 18 at the time).

But it looks as though Folau was also being watched for an opportunity to punish him for being a Christian; indeed, for being a blunt defender of the classic, conservative Christian faith.

The attack on Folau provoked an unexpected reaction: many Aussies were unhappy. They flooded open-line radio with calls in support of the right of Folau to hold and express his faith. This support was not limited to the 52.1 per cent of Australians who called themselves Christian in the 2016 census. A bucket load of callers took the line of “I don’t support what he said or the way he said it, but, hey the bloke’s obviously sincere so why is he being bashed up like this?”

Whether articulated or not, the underlying feeling of much of this response was: Australia is a free country. There was a distinct unease about the possibility of losing at least some degree of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief and freedom of religion in this wide, brown land.

Tone deaf to the electorate Bill Shorten came down on the wrong side of this debate in the election campaign. Ignoring section 116 of the Constitution, which says there shall be no religious test for public office, Shorten demanded to know where Scott Morrison stood on the “gays/hell” issue. This blunder won him no friends (apart from the inner-city crowd, who were already on his side).

For Rugby Australia this is a lose-lose debate. The religious test they applied to Folau’s employment looked so unfair to him that he bypassed their internal appeal process as pointless and announced his intention to test them in the courts. So Rugby Australia now will either lose the court battle or lose its major sponsor. It has already lost its best player.

This is no storm in a tea cup: this is central to Australia’s character as a nation and raises three questions:
 Why should there be penalties for defending classical Christianity?
 Why do the rights of one group trump all other rights?
 What is the actual content of the view he is defending?

Let’s tackle them. First, why should there be penalties for defending classic, conservative Christianity? It’s not as though Christianity is an eccentric, minority belief system. It’s the largest faith on earth with 2.3 billion followers.

Some will say people can believe what they like in private but the views of classic Christianity do not belong in the public arena. The problem is that Jesus ruled out that option when he said: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

So according to Jesus there is no such thing as private Christianity — there is only whole-of-life Christianity (public and private). Being a Christian means speaking about it. The Christian faith is part of our community and not a private matter.

Some politicians will say, “Well, we have to balance the rights of Christians to speak their faith aloud with the right of homosexuals not to be offended.” But from the words of Jesus it is clear that telling Christians they are not permitted to speak their faith aloud is telling them they are not permitted to be Christian.

Which brings us to the second question: why should the rights of one group trump all other rights? In this case it appears that the right of homosexuals not to be offended trumps the right of Christians to be as Christian as Jesus intended. It is especially interesting to note that Folau included eight groups in his post — none of the others has complained.

Surely the issue is that none of those seven other groups is demanding approval from everyone. On the whole, drunks, adulterers and the rest don’t care whether you approve or disapprove of them.

The homosexual community, however, appears not to be willing to accept disapproval. They may say all they want is tolerance. But that’s looking increasingly like a dishonest claim. They won’t, it seems, settle for anything short of complete approval.

Devout Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, atheists, Christians or Calathumpians don’t expect you to approve of them. They think they’re right, and if you believe differently you’re wrong — and they’re quite happy to debate this with you. But they don’t demand that you be legally compelled to approve of them, and legally silenced and punished if you disapprove.

Which brings us to the third question: what is the actual content of the view Folau is defending? Is it simply a system of morality? Folau lists eight behaviours that with the support of the Bible he says are proscribed — unacceptable to God — so it could certainly look like a question of morality.

In part this is a problem created by the brevity of social media posts, which don’t allow for nuance. But Folau himself is pointing beyond simple moral judgment when he writes that “Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him”.

He is drawing attention to the fact that classical Christianity is certainly about judgment, but it is also about sacrifice and forgiveness. For 2000 years Christians have been calling it “good news” because the news that God loves you despite your behaviour and offers forgiveness can only count as very good news, indeed.

This good news Folau is talking about addresses the fact of death. The Christian world view says “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The point is that life is a journey and, like every journey, it has an end. It would be intelligent to give some thought to how and where the journey of life might end. You might protest: but we can’t know! It’s not possible to know what death will be like and whether we might survive it, and, if so, what that survival might be like.

Picture it as being like a group of travellers walking down a long country road. They fall into an argument about where the road will end. One of them may claim it ends at a steep cliff face and that’s it. Someone else may suggest it ends at a railway station where a train is waiting to take you back to the beginning so you can do the journey all over again. Yet another may suggest the road of life ends in a garden and, just like Christmas, everyone will get gifts and be happy. Another may argue there are two cities at the end of the road: a comfortable one (“heaven”) and a bleak one (“hell”) and that we can be switched from the bad option to the good option as a free gift because the lord of the road loves the travellers and has paid for the gift.

That is pretty much the state of the debate in the modern world, and that brings us back to Folau’s warning that we should avoid hell.

Cartoonists have had a lot of fun will hell through the years, picturing comic demons in red tights with pitchforks prodding hapless condemned souls into furnaces. However, all the amusing things, or silly things, that have ever been said about hell, or thought about hell, spring from our reluctance to seriously consider death — what it is and what it means.

Here’s a practical definition: death really means separation.

For a start, death is the separation of the mind (or soul if you prefer) from the body. Most human beings who have ever lived, from Plato to now, have believed that the mind (or soul) will survive this separation. If it doesn’t, then that answers our question of destination. But if it does it means we are on the right track in thinking about death as separation.

But there is another separation that counts as death: separation from God. In classical Christianity separation from God is spiritual death. This separation from God shows itself in a wide range of behaviours, including the eight behaviours listed by Folau in his Instagram post, but not limited to those eight. Because, according to the classically Christian world view, we are designed to function plugged in to God; once we are unplugged (separated) we are like an unplugged appliance — we don’t function properly or we don’t function at all.

That’s the danger Folau believed he was warning people against. He thought he was warning his followers that those people who ignore God, choose to be separated from God, are sending a message; are saying to God, “just leave me alone”. The danger is God will take them at their word: they will be cut off from God forever.

That being “cut off” is what hell is. Not the funny cartoons of demons with pitchforks but being cut off, isolated, exiled, expelled, separated. When Jesus himself pronounces judgment on people the words he says are “depart from me”, adding, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

But as Folau’s short post indicates, there is more to the story. Here’s the completion of those words from the Bible quoted above: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

There is the offer of God’s love and forgiveness and restoration: switching at life’s end from the bad option (separation, isolation, “hell”) to the good option (connection, community, “heaven”) as a free gift. From the point of view of classical Christianity, Folau saw people in danger and shouted out a warning. In other words, the intention of his message was the exact opposite to how it has been portrayed. And for that Folau is being punished.

Kel Richards is an author, journalist, radio personality and lay canon at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. He is the author of The Aussie Bible.

WE NEED MORE ISRAEL FOLAU’S : COURAGEOUS FOR CHRIST

Thank goodness for articles like this one from Alan Jones in THE AUSTRALIAN.

“The issue around Folau is really quite simple. You either believe in God or you don’t. You are either a Christian or you are not.

But if you are a Christian, or claim to be a Christian and you do believe in heaven and hell, and the word of Jesus Christ, then you should be living according to God’s word.

Or are some people pretending to be Christians and picking and choosing which doctrines they will adhere to?

Israel Folau with his wife Maria at Kenthurst Uniting Church after a Sunday service. Picture: Hollie Adams

Israel Folau with his wife Maria at Kenthurst Uniting Church after a Sunday service

If you are a Christian, what Folau posted is truth. You might think it is out of date or not relevant or not contemporary, but a committed Christian believes in that so could not in any way be offended.

And if you are not a Christian, then there is no such thing as hell. So what is the kerfuffle?

Thank goodness for social media.

As I have said, it is clear Rugby Australia either can’t read or do not care about their constituency, or both. Or are they comforted by the fact that everyone on the payroll has toed the party line.

How extraordinary that not one single person on the payroll of Rugby Australia has dared to step out of line and say simply that this Folau issue is a heap of crock.

I was asked to write two pieces for The Australian last week. It is a matter of public record that they were viewed by more than 2.3 million people on my Facebook page. There were more than 10,000 individual comments.

On The Australian’s website, where you can only comment if you are a subscriber, there were 1900 further individual comments.

The overwhelming majority of these comments support Folau and his right to basic freedoms.

Rugby Australia argue that one of their values is “inclusiveness”, but they don’t want to “include” Folau; more importantly, they obviously don’t want to “include” the supporters of the game.

There is a golden rule in life. When you are digging a hole for yourself and getting deeper and deeper into trouble, it is a good idea to stop digging.

Yet here are Rugby Australia, on the wrong side of their constituency on almost every other issue, now isolating thousands of fans by prosecuting Folau for expressing his religious beliefs. The public comments are telling:

Carolyn: “Thank you Alan for such a well-written article. May God richly bless you for standing up and supporting this young man and the right of all Christians to share our faith.”

That is a touch indulgent, but Carolyn is surely entitled to her view.

Or, when Rugby talks “diversity”, does it really mean “uniformity”?

Fred: “If they drop Folau, I’ll drop rugby. No support, no going to games, no watching it on TV.”

Susan: “This is discrimination and humiliation of an individual on the basis of his religious beliefs. The only victim here is Israel Folau.”

Adam: “I spend $1500 a year on tickets to watch the Wallabies. This year I won’t be spending a cent. Leave Israel alone Rugby Australia.”

Cassie: “Why was Alan Joyce allowed to use his platform as Qantas CEO to push his agenda and Folau not?”

Maria: “Goodbye rugby union. I have been a fan of the Wallabies since I was young. You have lost me forever.”

Andrew: “I’m out. I’m done with rugby. I’ll never watch it again.”

John: “The RA Board needs to go and so does the CEO of Qantas.”

Corey: “Political correctness has infected all media and sports codes. Rugby Australia are scared to offend a 2 per cent minority.”

George: “The Folau incident is forcing us to ponder … are we still a Christian country?”

Gerrard: “It is amazing how politicians are praised for respecting our Christian traditions by not campaigning at Easter but Israel Folau loses his job for upholding the same traditions. Perhaps we need rugby sponsors who believe and uphold our western Judaeo-Christian values.”

At least Kent put a smile on our faces when he wrote: “My experience of hell is watching the Wallabies play.”

There are simple fundamental questions at work here. Can a sponsor include any conditions it likes to control the activities of all the employees of the organisation it is sponsoring?

Yet the same sponsor can enter a commercial partnership with countries that openly commit atrocities against gay people.

This has all reached farcical proportions. I see one headline which says: “If Rugby Australia doesn’t successfully expel Folau, World Rugby will have to.”

Are these people on something? This is brewing as a massive and expensive legal issue. There are tens of thousands of people signing petitions in support of a world-class player.

Rugby Australia seem to be driving the process as an employment contract breach. Folau and his supporters see this as an infringement of civil liberties; that citizens of this so-called free country should be entitled to share their religious beliefs.

All Folau has done is quote 2000-year-old scripture.

As Thomas Jefferson said in relation to the US constitutional right to the freedom of speech, expressing one’s own beliefs, is “neither picking my pocket nor breaking my leg”.

The politically correct do-gooders do not have to listen to or agree with Folau.

But if Folau was offering a Christian warning to so-called sinners, and he managed to rope us all in, I was made aware of a more significant warning only this week by someone who read what I had written.

I was reminded that Martin Niemöller, a German theologian, had been a prominent pastor of an influential parish in Berlin-Dahlem from 1931 until his arrest in July 1937.

His incarceration, first in Moabit Prison, then in Sachsenhausen and finally in Dachau in 1945 brought feelings of shame and guilt for some of his positions since 1933.

And it prompted his famous confession: “First, they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

What an incongruity on this matter that some speak out because money speaks; and some are frightened to speak out because money speaks.

If Folau is wrong, then do we burn the Bible?

The German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine once declared: “Wherever books are burnt, humans are destined to be burnt too.”

Folau now faces a code of conduct panel. His post was on April 10.

The hearing is on May 4. What does that say about justice delayed? And what anyway is the panel about?

Rugby Australia has ignored its own processes and protocols. Before any chance was given for Folau to defend himself, he has been punished, condemned, defamed and humiliated.

After all, NSW played last week. He was not picked. The Australian coach says he won’t be picked for the Wallabies.

The captain of Australia and NSW says he won’t play in the same team as Folau. Will selectors tell that young man that he doesn’t pick the team? Or has the whole show gone completely mad?

Do the professionally offended believe they have won? If Folau is finished, I am sorry but Rugby Australia is finished too.

The administrative changes that I have argued for, for months now, must immediately occur.

But on this issue, there can be only one result; and how the phalanx of people advising Rugby Australia don’t see it is unbelievable. Stop digging the hole. Stop further damaging the game. Stop dragging this mess out any further. Have the decency to practice the “inclusiveness” you boast about.

We need a leader to bring all parties together and start again. Rugby Australia and Qantas cannot win. If they win, Australia loses.

One final point. Please tell the volunteers and the battlers out there in clubland that Qantas should be made to pay for all the costs involved. Without their involvement, we would not be in this space. And if Qantas have not put the gun to the head of Rugby Australia, say so and I am happy to report it.

But back to where we began. Can someone in Rugby Australia read the judgment of the Federal Court in Brisbane 10 days ago in relation to the distinguished James Cook University professor Peter Ridd.

He too was sacked for expressing sincerely held scientific views.

The Federal court found the university’s treatment of this eminent professor was unlawful. Termination became vindication.

I suspect a similar outcome awaits Folau.

PERSECUTION INCREASES IN THE “LAST DAYS”.

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.”

Israel Falou celebrates after scoring a try during the Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the Argentina Pumas last year.

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.