People’s lives are not for me to judge. Only God can do that.
I have sinned many times in my life. I take responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily.
I understand a lot of people won’t agree with some of the things I’m about to write.
That’s absolutely fine. In life, you are allowed to agree to disagree.
But I would like to explain to you what I believe in, how I arrived at these beliefs and why I will not compromise my faith in Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of every single thing in my life.
I hope this will provide some context to the discussion that started with my reply to a question asked of me on Instagram two weeks ago.
I read the Bible every day. It gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find in any other area of my life. It gives me direction. It answers my questions.
I believe that it is a loving gesture to share passages from the Bible with others. I do it all the time when people ask me questions about my faith or things relating to their lives, whether that’s in-person or on my social media accounts.
Two weeks ago, I tore my hamstring quite badly in the opening minutes against the Brumbies. I was told I would be on the sidelines for a month. Finding out I would miss three or four games so early in the season was disappointing and frustrating, but I accepted the news and started looking ahead.
That afternoon I put up the following Instagram post, referring to James 1: 2-4:
Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, because the testing of your faith produces endurance … so that you may be lacking in nothing.
In the comments section of that post, I was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people.
My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
I do not know the person who asked the question, but that didn’t matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.
I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?
In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people.
There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself.
No man or woman is different from another – if you sin, which we all do, and do not repent and seek forgiveness, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.
As it is written in Acts 2:38:
Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I believe when Jesus died on the cross for us, it gave us all the opportunity to accept and believe in Him if we wanted to. To enter the kingdom of Heaven, though, we must try our best to follow His teachings and, when we fall short, to seek His forgiveness.
BREAK ME DOWN, BUILD ME UP
It wasn’t always this way for me.
I grew up in the Mormon church but, like a lot of kids, I didn’t really pay all that much attention.
I went to church on Sundays because that’s what my parents expected. I didn’t want to disappoint them. It was box ticking, pretty much.
We left the Mormon faith in 2009. As much as I might not have been the most devout follower out there, I always believed in God, so it left a huge void in my life.
I tried to fill it with other things. Alcohol. Women. Sins.
I was playing in the NRL at 17 and, soon after, playing Origin and Test footy.
That opened me to a world of temptation I had never been exposed to before. I had the means to indulge in that, but not the wisdom to understand what it really meant.
Often during this period I felt I was losing control of who I was and what I wanted to be. It was all ego and no humility.
But despite living this materialistic life, I still felt empty.
I would wake up on a Sunday morning and think, ‘This isn’t me’. And yet I would do it again the next week. And the week after that. It was a cycle of sin that was getting me nowhere.
The big change happened with the move to Greater Western Sydney.
With one signature, I went from the top of the NRL to the bottom of the AFL.
I have written before about the reasons why I signed with the Giants, but not so much the way it made me feel at the time.
I’ll be honest: I would be driving to training most days thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It kept me up a lot of nights.
I was doing what I thought was best for my family, but the reality of the situation – that I wasn’t very good at this new sport – made me upset.
All I had wanted to do in life was play in the NRL. Now I had made a decision to leave that all behind and live a new life to appease other people.
It left me emotionally broken.
It was around this time I started attending a new church where I experienced God’s love for the first time in my life. That’s when I started to realise this was all part of God’s plan for me.
I had been hiding my inner thoughts and feelings from everyone around me, but God could see into my heart.
He had to break me down in order to build me up again into the person He wanted me to be. It all suddenly made sense.
I have tried to live my life in God’s footsteps ever since. I follow his teachings and read the Bible all the time in order to learn and become a better person.
Since that happened I have been at peace and enjoyed life with an open, honest heart, which is why my faith in Jesus comes first.
I would sooner lose everything – friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot – and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him.
As you have probably read, last week I met with Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and Waratahs general manager Andrew Hore.
During the meeting I told them it was never my intention to hurt anyone with the Instagram comment, but that I could never shy away from who I am, or what I believe.
They explained their position and talked about external pressure from the media, sponsors and different parts of the community, which I understand.
I acknowledge Raelene and Andrew have to run things in a way that appeals broadly to their executive, fans and sponsors, as well as its players and staff. It is a business.
I didn’t agree with Bill Pulver taking a stance on the same sex marriage vote on behalf of the whole organisation, but I understand the reasons behind why he did.
After we’d all talked, I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable – that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my contract, immediately.
I feel I need to explain this part in more detail because at no stage over the past two weeks have I wanted that to happen.
There have been things written about me angling to get a release from my Rugby Australia deal to pursue an NRL contract. That simply isn’t true. There have been rugby offers from the UK, Europe and Japan that are way above anything I could earn in Australia.
This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.
After the meeting I went home, turned on the TV and was really disappointed with some of the things that were said in the press conference.
I felt Raelene misrepresented my position and my comments, and did so to appease other people, which is an issue I need to discuss with her and others at Rugby Australia.
That aside, I hope Raelene and Andrew appreciate my position, even if it differs with theirs.
I love rugby union. It has allowed me to travel all over the world and meet some fascinating people along the way.
It is one of the best things about the game in my opinion.
I do not want to bring hurt to the game and want as many people playing it as possible, so when I spoke to Raelene about walking away, it was to help the game, not harm it, in the event we couldn’t come to an understanding.
I used to believe I was defined by my actions on the footy field, but I see now that’s not true.
GOD CAN SEE FROM BEGINNING TO END
Anyone who knows me knows I am not the type to upset people intentionally.
Since my social media posts were publicised, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people.
This could not be further from the truth.
I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.
With everything that has been said and written, many people over the past six months have told me they think I am wrong, either to my face or via social media.
I won’t to go into the specifics – some of it has been pretty heavy, and from people close to me – but they let it be known that their views differed from mine.
I don’t have any issue with this.
Every individual in this world is different and we have all experienced things that have shaped us in unique ways.
I don’t expect everyone to believe what I believe. That goes for teammates, friends and even family members, some of whom are gay.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers in life. It can be difficult making the right decisions.
You are always trying to reconcile the truth from the Bible with things you feel inside. But I have faith that God’s path is the right one and that path is outlined in the Bible. I will keep sharing that.
One of God’s commandments is to, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. In other words, God loves each and every one of us. He just doesn’t love the sin we live in.
That is what Jesus died for, to give us a chance to be forgiven.
If you choose to believe in Him, repent, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the removal of your sins, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That will enable you to live the life that God has called us to live.
God can see from beginning to end. I can’t. There’s a big element of trust in that and sometimes you have to give up the things you really want in order to please God.
I trust that He knows what is best for me. He knows the future. He knows how it is all meant to play out.
At times, you can feel alone and down. But Jesus told us that when you stand up for Him in this world, you can expect backlash. I find peace in that.
As testing as it can be standing up for what you believe in, the Bible tells us it will be worth it in the end.
Israel Folau - Founding Contributor