The case of Israel Folau has been a polarising one in Australia with some supporting the rugby union player’s airing of his Christian beliefs and others loudly opposed. In the end, it turns out that Folau may be guilty of one of the sins of which he accuses others: hypocrisy.
Last year, Folau made a post on Instagram saying adulterers, drunkards, fornicators, homosexuals and the like would all go to hell if they did not repent and come to Jesus. In this, he was merely stating what the Bible says about these kinds of people. He was cautioned about such posts by his employer, Rugby Australia. Whether he signed any agreement about not putting up similar posts in the future is unknown.
A second similar post this year resulted in a fairly big outcry among the media and those who champion the gay cause. Folau had a number of meetings with his employers and was finally shown the door. He was on a four-year $4 million contract so he has lost a considerable amount of cash. The Australian team has lost a lot too, as he was by far the best player and the World Cup rugby tournament is in September this year. The main sponsor of the team is Qantas and the chief executive, Alan Joyce, is gay. There have been accusations that Joyce has been a pivotal force in pushing for Folau’s sacking.
Soon after this, Folau announced that he was suing Rugby Australia and sought to raise $3 million for defending himself. His campaign on GoFundMe had reached about $750,000 when it was pulled down by the site. But the Christian lobby started another fund for Folau and it has now raised well beyond a million dollars.
Now Folau has the right to hold his own religious beliefs. He is also free to state them openly. But in this he goes against the very Bible he quotes, for Christians are told to practise their faith quietly, and not in the manner of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, people who took great care to show outwardly that they were religious – though in private they were as worldly and non-religious as anyone else. In short, they were hypocrites.
Christians were told to behave in this manner and promised that their God would reward them openly. In other words, a Christian is expected to influence others not by talking loudly and flaunting his/her faith, but by impressing others by one’s behaviour and attitudes. Folau’s flaunting of his faith appears to go against this admonishment.
Then again, Folau’s seeking of money to fund his court case is a very worldly act. First of all, Christians are told not to go to court against their neighbours but rather to settle things peacefully. Even if Folau decided to violate this teaching, he has plenty of properties and did not need to take money from others. If he wanted a court battle, then he could have used his own money. This is un-Christian in the extreme.
Folau’s supporters cite the admonishment by Jesus that his followers should go to all corners of the world and preach the gospel. That is an admonishment given to pastors and leaders of the flock. The rest of us are told to influence others by the way we live.
Folau is the one who set himself up as one who acts according to the Christian faith and left himself open to be judged by the same creed. If all his actions had been in keeping with the faith, then one would have no quarrel with him. But when one chooses Christianity when it is convenient, and goes the way of the world when it suits, then there is only word to describe it: hypocrisy.
Hypocrites were one category of people who attracted a huge amount of criticism from Jesus Christ during his earthly sojourn. Israel Folau should muse on this.