The founder of Hillsong Church has called out Israel Folau over his homophobic and derogatory social media posts.
Folau is on the cusp of being sacked by Rugby Australia after being handed a 48-hour deadline to save his Super Rugby and Wallabies career.
Brian Houston, a Christian pastor, has called on Folau to embrace love rather than force his beliefs on others.
Houston emphasised the need for freedom of religion in Australia, but said Folau’s practice of instilling fear in others was likely to backfire.
“As Christians it is equally important to look at ourselves and our own failings and imperfections,” Houston told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If you look at the list of sins that Izzy listed there’s not too many people he’s left out, including Christians.
“There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t told a lie or put something before God (idolatry).
“In 40 years of telling people about the good news of Jesus, I have seen that the ‘turn or burn’ approach to proclaiming the message of Christianity alienates people. Scaring people doesn’t draw them into the love of Jesus.
“The world doesn’t need more judgmental Christians.”
Houston expressed his belief that Christians should embrace everyone – even those with dissimilar beliefs.
“This is not the church I know. The church is a group of diverse (and imperfect) people who have all been captivated and adopted into the same story – with Jesus at the centre,” he said.
“The central storyline of our faith is a story of love and redemption, a story of forgiveness and acceptance, a story of undeserved grace and unreserved mercy.”
Folau doubles down
Folau broke his silence on Sunday, saying he will miss rugby but is prepared to walk away from the sport without a fight for the sake of his faith.
In his first interview since posting homophobic messages on social media on Wednesday, Folau wouldn’t back down on his actions and said he would be prepared to accept his fate from rugby authorities.
The Waratahs have stood the star Wallabies fullback down indefinitely while Rugby Australia is likely to rip up his lucrative four-year deal for a breach of contract.
Folau spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald after he and netball star wife Maria attended a church service in suburban Sydney.
The 30-year-old denied reports that he would consider taking legal action if Rugby Australia severed ties.
He said he would regard such a decision as “God’s will”.
“First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever he wants me to do, I believe his plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it,” Folau said.
“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”
Folau said his beliefs hadn’t been swayed by the waves of criticism directed at him.
“Absolutely not. I’ll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.”