A row has erupted in sport after Australian rugby player and committed Christian, Israel Folau, posted on social media that those who are living in sin will end up in Hell, unless they repent. Quoting from Galatians 5:19-21, he said, “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators – Hell awaits you.”
For expression of that conviction, ‘hell’ appears to have broken out round the rugby star, but, despite sacking from his team and widespread condemnation, Folau has refused to remove the post, saying simply that his faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first in his life, and he was encouraging people to repent. His cause has now been taken up by England International Billy Vunipola, also a Christian, who has bravely waded into the fray in Folau’s support. Saying the Rugby star was simply expressing his belief, Vunipola said we all need to live closer to God, and that man was made for woman.
He too is now facing disciplinary action (https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-union/billy-vunipola-israel-folau-sacked-england-australia-homophobic-social-media-post-channel-4-a8868126.html).
It is interesting, however, that apart from generalised rage and the righteous denunciation of this attack on the LGBT community, there has been little or no reference to other categories of sin in the list. Why, VfJUK asks, has there been no corresponding fury from atheists, fornicators, or adulterers – who, one may suppose, form a far greater proportion of the population? Why is the press not standing up for thieves and drunkards, protesting that this is an abuse of their human rights?
And while we’re on the subject of human rights – which always comes in at some point – what about the Sultan of Brunei, with his recent announcement of the strict enforcement of Islamic law? From coverage in the Western press, you’d be excused for thinking the man was a rabid bigot who had specifically announced violent war against homosexuals (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47769964). But this is misleading. The reality is that, for a Muslim, Sharia law governs every aspect of life and imposes harsh penalties for transgression of any and all the rules, including amputation, flogging, beheading, and stoning to death. The same law applies equally to apostates, rapists, thieves, homosexuals, adulterers… in fact to any perceived offence – and it is this system that – rightly or wrongly, as we see it – the Sultan of Brunei has ruled be enforced.
So by all means condemn him for barbarity. And on any scale Sharia law is frightening. But only for vicious homophobia…? The truth is that in Islam homosexuality is merely one ‘sin’ among many – almost on a par with insulting Mohammed, but not quite – sitting alongside such things as rape, incest, and adultery. All carry horrific punishment, including stoning and death – and it is this cruel and vicious punishment system that should be condemned wholesale. As it is, focussing on one aspect to the exclusion of all else risks legitimizing a belief system that has at its heart the merciless enforcement of rules that appear on occasion both bizarre and unreasonable – as, for example, with some of the laws relating to women.
But in the Western mindset all this gets lost, because beside so-called LGBT rights, everything else pales into insignificance. Let’s be blunt, what we are seeing in Europe today is in effect the birth of new religion, whose counterfeit and blinkered god demands total and exclusive worship, and who will brook no rival. Besides the idol of LGBT rights, all other considerations melt like snowflakes in the sun.
In such a climate, Christian belief looks like it doesn’t stand a chance. The demand is either that we conform and kneel before the altar of sexual libertarianism – that we deny our faith – or that we be sacrificed.
It is this new religion that Folau and Vunipola have dared challenge. And, however dressed up, it is a straight attack on Christianity. Yet perhaps saddest of all is the fact that, for many, this vicious attack on freedom of belief has passed almost unremarked. In today’s world it is apparently justified to silence Christians!
As Easter approaches, the question for believers is whether we too will dare stand for our faith? Or will we take the easy way and join with the crowd, bowing down before the counterfeit and decadent god who smiles upon sin, and affirms indulgence?
“I warn you again, as I warned you before, those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom…” Galatians 5:21
As we prepare once more to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died that we might live, let us nail our colours to the mast and follow Him in obedience. In these challenging times, let us not be found wanting.