Rugby player Israel Folau told his church yesterday that the story of Christ being tempted by Satan “really encourages him,” amid reports that he rejected the option of deleting his controversial social media posts in order to save his career.
Speaking to attendees at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst, north west of Sydney, Folau said there were “the kind of temptations that have been offered to me in the past couple of weeks” that “resonate with what the Bible says”.
“There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier,” Folau said. “It crossed my mind that I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way my life used to be”.
Folau said that since he began his 12-13 year professional sports career “finances have obviously been something I’ve never had to worry about.”
“I’m blessed by Jesus Christ with the gift and talent to be able to play the sport that I guess I really love and enjoy.”
Folau was found to be in high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct last week following an Instagram post where Folau listed people who would be going to hell if they did not repent – including homosexuals. He is now facing possible termination of his $4 million contract with Rugby Australia.
“For the first time, as most of you know from reading in the paper, I got stood down by posting what I did on social media. At this stage … it’s not finished yet – the outcome is yet to be known. But, potentially, I could get terminated. Which means there’s no more playing contract, and therefore no more finances, or money coming in.”
“For the first time I’ve actually had to be in a situation that, I’ve got to say, has been really challenging.”
Folau said when contemplating “the materialistic things I’ve been able to have over the past number of years being taken away from me,” he found the story of Christ’s temptation, along with two gospel verses – Mark 8.36 and Mark 8.34* – really encouraging.
“The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away… [But] it is always the will of God that comes first,” Folau said.
It is unclear whether Rugby Australia (RA) offered Folau the opportunity to delete his posts in order to save his career. It seems more likely that his own management team presented it as an option.
What is known is that Folau rejected RA’s push for both parties to enter into settlement talks before the code of conduct hearing started on May 4 last week. Instead, the player reportedly told the tribunal, through his legal representatives, that he was willing to admit to a ‘low-level breach of the code’, saying that, while he was motivated by love, it was clear his posts had hurt the game and some of its fans and players.
The punishment for a low-level breach include a fine of one week’s salary, a one-match suspension, a written warning, community work, counselling, or any combination of these.
*”Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8.34 NIV.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8.36 NIV.