Israel Folau, Sin and the New Intolerant Tolerance


It’s been interesting watching the latest skirmish in Australia’s own version of the culture wars. In the latest chapter, Australia’s number one rugby union player, and evangelical Christian, Israel Folau has found himself on the wrong side of the new intolerant tolerance brigade. While the way he went about calling out a particular sexual sin on social media could be up for debate, to me it reveals a massive insight into the post Christian era that we are entering, and how as Christians we need to respond.

And lo and behold the usual Christian haters like Peter Fitzsimmons (who I really believe has a shockingly irrational hatred of the Christian faith) pile on in the Sydney Morning Herald.

And, apparently it is all leading to an interesting show down with his bosses at the Australian Rugby Union… click here

Some things I’d note…

Firstly, I’d submit to Israel Folau we need to be careful how we talk about sin. As I will say below, I think Christians will be called to ever more brave statements and lifestyles that reflect following Jesus. Where I would possibly differ is that it is easy for Christians to come across as self righteous or hypocritical whenever we call out sin or the need to repent. Indeed Jesus himself said that we should not judge others and that with the measure we use, it will be used against us. Hence when talking about sin we need to speak with a compassionate and humble approach. I want to be the first to say that I struggle with sin, that I need to repent, and that only by the grace of God am I saved. When asked about any ‘sinful’ lifestyle or group I would want to echo the words of the Apostle Paul who called himself the worst of sinners, before talking about the sin in anyone else life.

Secondly though, the truth of Jesus’ call to repent for the Kingdom of God has come has not changed. Fundamental to this truth is that all sinful behaviour ultimately separates us from God, diminishes our lives and hurts our neighbours. Israel Folau doesn’t stand on the wrong side of history, he stands with Jesus who is the truth and grace of God. As Christians we do no one a favour by giving anyones sin a thumbs up like it is not a problem. Sin damages everything and it leads to hell. Any type of sexual activity outside of marriage is adultery and the scriptures couldn’t be clearer that people who engage in this type of activity won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Of course it is not our behaviour that saves us, but the love of God, but Israel is right that what we are called to do is repent of this or any other sinful behaviour and align our lives with the ethics and values of Jesus’ kingdom. That is where true life and freedom are found!

Finally, welcome to the margins of society. I’m under no illusions that Christians in Australia are a persecuted minority (for goodness sakes we run schools, charities hospitals, have people in the highest levels of government and society), but we are no longer in the cultural ascendancy. Our voice and message is going to be increasingly sidelined and ridiculed. It’s a shame because so much of what makes Australia great comes from our Christian heritage and values. But we will increasingly need to minister and operate from the margins and without power. Around this there is a lot of debate, but I personally don’t think it’s a major problem. While it may be uncomfortable for many of us, it’s good to remember that Jesus started his movement from the fringes and without power. In fact it allows us to proclaim Jesus by living radically set apart lives. We should look very different to the new values of our society, that in turn will not tolerate Christian truth or ethics. The light shines brightest in the darkness!

So… well done Israel Folau on not being ashamed of the gospel. I would encourage us all to minister, like Jesus, with grace and truth, with conviction and with humility. The opportunities are immense, because a world detached from Jesus is given to decay. We have the answers, repent and believe for the Kingdom of God has come in Jesus!

What do you think?


Published by timgiovanelli

My wife Victoria and I are planting a new church in Manly, NSW

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