Israel Folau. What a hullabaloo you have caused. And for those of us of the Christian faith: what a mess.
I guess you could say that this is my attempt to clean the mess up. A theological cleaner. Maybe I should add that to my bio on Instagram. Sounds pretentious enough…
Instagram, the place where this whole debacle began. The place where a user by the user name of mike_sephton ask Folau a simple (or maybe not so simple) question: “what was gods plan for gay people??” A question, to which Folau answered “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” Since then… well, I guess you could say all Hell has broken loose…
This was a couple of weeks ago now, but the story just won’t go away. Just five hours ago as I write this, All Black TJ Perenara tweeted his own thoughts on the matter, which has already captured the media’s attention once again. So, it doesn’t look like the story is blowing over any time soon. And whatever your thoughts on the issue, it’s not a pretty look for Christians. And from what I have seen of Facebook, Christians are divided on the issue. Yay for unity!! Or not…
So, where to begin? Well, I would like to go back to the beginning (yes, it’s a very good place to start, yada yada) and look at the question which started it all, and the answer which Folau gave, and maybe think about what answer he (or we) should have given to the question.
Just to remind us what we are talking about: The question (grammatically clean up) again: “What is God’s plan for gay people?”
Folau’s answer: “Hell, unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."
What I think Folau has tried to do, is give a very brief gospel message in replay. And while on the surface, it may look like a fairly orthodox (if blunt) Christian response, he has in fact got the gospel message mixed up.
God's plan is not Hell for anyone (homosexual or otherwise.)
God’s plan is to save people from Hell.
That’s why God became a man, Jesus.
That’s why Jesus dead on the cross.
Hell is what happens when people say no to God's plan. But it is not what he wants for anyone.
And this is not just for LGBTQ people: this is for all of us. There is not one gospel for straight people and another for LGBTQ people, there is one gospel, for all.
Now, to be fair, Folau has later said that that he his answer was not just for gay people, but what he believes God’s plan is for all people, in an extended article where he elaborates on what he meant. (see https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#srjCJTAAqgpwx2fF.99 for what he said.) Maybe this was his intention. It’s hard to tell when he is writing after the fact. But ether way, if your're asked what is God’s plan for a particular group of people, and you answer “hell,” it’s going come across as a condemnation of that group of people, no matter what your intentions are. And even here, Folau is make the same mistake in what the gospel teaches about Gods' plain for humanity. He speaks about God's plan for sinners, then quotes 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. But again, this is not what God wants for us, but what happens if we fall outside of Gods plan.
So the repose given by Folau shows a lack of understanding of what the gospel truly is. And on one level, that’s okay: we are all on a journey of discovering more and more of what the gospel looks like, and we all need grace while we are on that journey. I hope and pray that as Folau journeys, he will understand the gospel better.
But it also shows a lack of another Christian value: wisdom.
He lacked the wisdom to see how his answer would be understood by those who would read it, and what a storm and controversy it would create.
He lacked the wisdom to point to the love of God, to tell the story of what he has done to save us, instead he appeals to human fear.
He lacked the wisdom to clarified what Hell is and what it means, in a world where there are so many misconceptions out there of what it is.
He lacked the wisdom to see that if you want to loved someone, you need listen to their story, to care about their story, and to speak into their story, that you need to care who they are to be able to love them. (Again, see https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#srjCJTAAqgpwx2fF.99)
Then again, perhaps I too lack wisdom for jumping into this controversy also…
Wisdom and understanding.
Two things Paul would often pray that God will give, by his Spirit, to the churches he wrote to.
Two things lacking for Folau’s answer.
My hope and my prayer is that God will pour out his Spirt of wisdom and understanding, on Israel Folau, and on his Church today.