Report from Bristol, UK: 28 th February 2017 (Christian Concern)
Street Preachers Convicted in Modern Day Heresy Trial.
Two street preachers have today been convicted of a public order offence, after a public prosecutor, Mr Jackson, claimed that publicly quoting parts of the King James Bible in modern Britain should “be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter”.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell were found guilty under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 at Bristol Magistrates’ Court. During the four-day trial, Mr Jackson also argued: “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.”
And it seems that if you believe it to be a truth and you proclaim it as truth, you may be found guilty under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress”. Mention Jesus (the thorny naily one), and the offence becomes religiously aggravated.
Christians are often accused of being arrogant and intolerant and divisive. “How can you say you are right and others are wrong?” they might say. Critics (and the British courts) would suggest that it’s far more accurate and tolerant and humble to say that we are all climbing the same mountain towards the same God but just using different paths.
And yet Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
And Paul when writing a letter to the Galatians says, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8)
That doesn’t sound very tolerant. Surely, this is arrogant and divisive? Surely it would be much more unifying to say, “All paths, all religions will lead us to God ultimately, as long as we are sincere. After all, every religion has a set of laws and rituals and practices which participants are required to fulfil,” and “Who can say one is better than the other?”
When I was at University we had a Dr. Krishna come and speak to us. He was a professor at the University of Westville in Durban. He had converted from being a devout Hindu to a Christian and often used to speak on comparative religions. I will never forget what he said: “In all religions (and he included nominal Christianity in this) man is trying to reach God. In Christianity God is reaching down to man.”
The truth of the matter is that we cannot reach God by our own efforts, whatever path we choose. Our problem is that we all fall short of God’s standard no matter how hard we try. It is a bit like trying to jump across the Zambezi River. Some will jump further than others, but no-one will jump anywhere near far enough to get across the river. Our shortcoming or sin, for that is what it is, separates us from God. That is why God sent his Son. He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay the price and the penalty for our wrongdoing. If we accept what God has done for us and believe in Him, He forgives us our sin and reconciles us to Himself. He removes that barrier.
We have a choice: to accept His way or not. It’s not a choice between different religions or different paths that attempt to reach God. It is a choice between accepting what God has done for us or not.
When we say to God, “I am not going your way, I’m going the way I choose, it’s a better way,” actually, this is the height of arrogance! It is saying that I know better than God Himself. If there was another way, would God have allowed His Son to die on the cross? When Jesus
prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, He said, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will but Yours be done.” God the Father’s response? Silence! because there was no other way. Jesus went through the ordeal of the cross because there is no other way to be reconciled to God. That’s why He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) There is no other gospel. There is only one way.
Of course, this caused offense which is what the Bible tells us the gospel will do, (Galatians 5:11) just as Jesus Himself causes offense. Nothing we do, no good works, no keeping of any laws, no completing any rituals or ceremonies can reconcile us to God the Father. God reached down, through Jesus, to bring us into relationship with Him. Actually, it takes humility to accept that we cannot merit nor do anything to deserve God’s favour or acceptance. Our choice is to either accept His way or not.
What choice are you going to make?