Hillsong founder and pastor Brian Houston has called on Israel Folau to abandon his judgmental attitude and embrace love rather than trying to scare people to side with his religious beliefs.
While expressing his admiration for Folau's conviction and declaring the paramount need for freedom of religion in Australia, Houston — who for more than a decade was the National President of the Australian Christian Churches — said his experience showed instilling fear was more likely to alienate people.
"As Christians it is equally important to look at ourselves and our own failings and imperfections," Houston wrote for 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 also said he hopes Folau grows to understand the importance of Christians loving even those who believe differently, and believes the rugby star could benefit from looking inwardly before judging others.
Following his Instagram post which claimed "hell awaits" people such as "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters", Rugby Australia (RA) has served Folau with a breach notice.
Unless Folau accepts his breach notice — ultimately giving RA the power to terminate his four-year, $4 million contract — his fate will be determined by a Code of Conduct hearing.
After a meeting with RA powerbrokers last week it was reported Folau made it clear he will fight to save his career and while the sport's governing body declared it intends to sack him, there remains the possibility the matter may be headed for the courts.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Folau's remarks make it difficult to envision the 30-year-old being part of the Wallabies' plans for the World Cup in Japan, starting in September. "You wouldn't be able to," Cheika said when asked whether he'd be able to select Folau again under the circumstances.
Asked if he was comfortable taking the field again alongside Folau, flanker Hooper said: "In this current state and being here and talking about this as a rugby player, it makes it hard, it makes it difficult."
While emphasising what their teams stood for, especially in regards to diversity, Cheika and Hooper also stressed Folau was entitled to his beliefs. However, Cheika said Folau had "crossed the line" with his latest Instagram post after being told last year similar social media activity would not be tolerated.
"Getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team's about," Cheika said.
"When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia — everyone. Everyone that's out there supporting us. We don't pick and choose.
"We want everyone on that wagon with us to the World Cup … or a Bledisloe Cup. We want everyone there fighting with us and standing with us."
The Waratahs, who play Melbourne Rebels in a big Super Rugby Australian conference derby this weekend, have sidelined Folau and he refused to back down from his position, saying he's prepared to walk away from the game for the sake of his faith.
"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," he 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 told the Sydney Morning Herald.