Archdeacon Michael: Face-to-face with a Gladiator
There are some people I automatically listen to.
Some because they speak with authority, some because they inspire and occasionally because they intimidate me!
Last Saturday at the beginning it was certainly the latter. Warren Furman at 6ft 1in is certainly taller than me and his years of body building means that he is an imposing presence in any room. He is famous for having been Ace in the Gladiators. I met him in a room in a pub in the east end of Newcastle. He has bright eyes that stare you down as powerfully as I imagine his arms pinning a contestant down.
He was there to speak about his Christian faith. His comment about how he viewed the church prior to becoming a Christian challenged me to the core. But again at 6ft 1in and full of muscles I would have listened to him no matter what. What he said was he viewed churches as being like police safety cameras. It is claimed they are there for security and safety but to him it felt that they are there to catch people out and to raise funds.
A crude generalisation and one that he discovered not to be true, however one that brought me up short as to how I might be perceived, or even my motivations! Warren went on to discuss how he saw beyond this caricature and to realise that his life was more than worldly wealth or earthly pleasure and plaudits. He became someone I listened to not because he intimidated me but that he inspired me.
His first impressions of the Church affected how he initially responded to it, just as my first impressions of him had me. I don’t recall many school assemblies, however the last one at my secondary school, where the Head had heard that misbehaviour was being planned announced, 'First Impressions count, Last impressions stick!'
It is when we go beyond our initial response and find out what someone or something is like that we learn the truth, the adage of 'Don’t judge a book by its cover,' needs to be part of our lives. In a world of images and short messages this is hard to achieve. Christians view Jesus as being all encompassing, at the beginning and at the end. In the Bible they refer to him by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, 'The Alpha and Omega'.
It isn’t just our first impression of him or about him that matters, but the whole nature of who he really is.