“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Talking about and quoting the Bible can be perilous. One can lose friends, employment, and even freedom for choosing to read and mention the Bible in public.
Gary Ablett Jnr yesterday reminded footy fans why he is one of the best players we have seen play the game in the past 20 years: bursting packs, shrugging tackles, and kicking goals. He was also subjected to loud booing by the crowd, apparently by both Hawthorn and some Geelong supporters. Jeff Kennett has come out this morning condemning the crowd’s reaction to Ablett, believing that the treatment had to do with Ablett ‘liking’ Israel Folau’s recent Instagram post.
I am reminded of a very different scene that I saw last month, footage of Christians in China unpacking, opening, and holding a Bible of their own for the very first time. They were so excited at receiving a Bible that they danced and embraced their Bible and praised God for this precious gift. The beautiful smiles on their faces said it all. These Chinese believers were an embodiment of the Psalmist’s declaration,
“I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.”
In China, as in some other countries, owning a Bible can be a risky decision. Reading and believing the Bible is an even greater risk, for there is the possibility that you’ll be arrested and imprisoned.
In contrast to those joyful scenes in China, set in an authoritarian context, in Australia today, quoting the Bible can also lead to public scrutiny and professional expulsion.
Several Australian sportsmen have been targeted by the media and in social media for committing the terrible crime of ‘liking’ Israel Folau’s latest posting. They include 2 of Folau’s Wallaby teammates and 2 AFL stars, Gary Ablett Jnr and Carlton’s Matthew Kennedy.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, posting Bible verses that betray the cultural morality is not the only crime we can commit; liking such posts can also get you into hot water.
This non-news news story apparently required the football clubs intervention and for the AFL to also speak with the players and to offer a public peace offering.
Ablett has issued this public statement,
“I want to make it clear that I love ALL people regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality,” Ablett posted.
“I have always admired how strong Izzy is in his faith, it is not easy to share faith in the public sphere, and this is why I initially ‘liked’ his post.
“I understand that liking this post appeared offensive and this is why I chose to remove my ‘like’ from the post.”
Over the years I have appreciated Ablett’s public faith in Jesus Christ, and remain so. It’s hard to be a Christian in public Australia today. Some Aussies are respectful, many others think you’re an idiot or even worse.
When it comes to supporting statements made by fellow Christians on social media, I don’t have a problem with Christians not clicking the ‘like’ emoji. When we do, we might like the post for a variety of reasons, including expressing agreement. I’m sure many Christians who didn’t ‘like’ the posts refrained not because they disagreed with the theological statements being made, but rather, Izzy’s manner and tone appeared to lack grace and kindness (at least that’s how it came across).
Of course, no matter what Bible verses we quote on social media, someone is sure to be offended. Doesn’t Jesus assume that this will be the case? On one occasion Jesus even turned and said to his disciples, “Does this offend you?”
Sadly, our culture police have determined that offence equals hatred and it must therefore be squashed and the offending parties need to enter special education programs for reprogramming. Australian culture doesn’t know how to deal with the Bible and with classic Christian belief.
Christians in China are not free to quote the Bible on social media and to talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in public places. This kind of social control is becoming normalised in some Australians quarters as well. That’s a disappointing state of affairs, but I trust Aussie believer won’t lose the joy and wonder of being able to own and read the Scriptures for ourselves, and where possible to keep speaking and explaining this Divine word with our fellow Aussies; not because we hate them, but because God has loved us and we love them.
(the article has been updated on April 23rd, in light of yesterday’s Geelong vs Hawthorn game and Jeff Kennett’s radio comments)