Yesterday a Bristol Magistrates’ Court in Great Britain convicted two men, Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell on “public order offences.”
What did they do that resulted in their arrest and conviction?
Was it public indecency? Disturbing the peace? Inciting a riot? Sexual harassment? Discharging a firearm? Disorderly conduct?
No. It was none of the above. I had to fact check this story, because it almost sounded like something from Babylon Bee.
Overd and Stockwell are “street preachers.” On June 6, 2016, they publicly proclaimed that Jesus is “the way, the truth and life” and that He is the only way to God, the Father.
According to ChristianConcern.com “during the four-day trial, prosecutor Ian Jackson, claimed: “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”
Further the “prosecutor claimed that quoting parts of the King James Bible in the context of modern British society ‘must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”
“The prosecutor had argued that free speech must yield to multicultural reality in modern Britain, and that there was a clear threat to violence due to the words of the preachers and the criticism of Islam.”
“The men were found guilty under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for using ‘threatening or abusive words or behavior or disorderly behavior within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be, caused harassment, alarm or distress, thereby, and the offence was religiously aggravated.’”
Michael Phillips, the attorney, representing the street preachers, said:
“This prosecution is nothing more than a modern-day heresy trial – dressed up under the public order act.”
Mr Stockwell said: “Men should be able to proclaim the truth and have diverse differences in the public forum, agreeing to disagree without harm or repercussions. Truth today is the new hate” He charged that Islamists and other radical groups are trying to silence free speech.
Aside from British law, or other possible infractions not correctly reported, here is the Truth. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus is the Way to God
In John’s prologue he affirms “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then he concludes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” (John 1:1,14). Jesus was and is Deity. He came in the flesh to show us God and to lead us to the Father.
Jesus is the Truth
“I am the Truth” seems pretty easy to understand. Jesus said he was the embodiment of truth. The essence of truth. The incarnation of truth. John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” and that He was “full of grace and truth” (v. 17,14).
Jesus is the Life
Speaking of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, John wrote, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn 1:4-5)
In a metaphorical way Jesus himself acknowledged that He was the giver and sustainer of spiritual life. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51)
Islamists may complain. Infidels may criticise. And courts may convict evangelists for preaching Christ. But the Bible is still true. Jesus is The Way. The Truth. The Life.