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WEARING YOUR FAITH ON YOUR SLEEVE

September 29, 2020 THE MMA TEAM

A good number of years ago I was challenged to memorize a Bible passage, Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, also known as the Shema. It goes like this:

“Listen O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 
Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 
Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 
Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
At the time I relished the challenge and took to it wholeheartedly. What I didn’t know was how this short passage would totally change my approach to life as a Christian.
While learning this passage, I began looking over my life and questioning if people would see me and know I was a Christian. Either by my actions, my words, or my appearance. Was it painted on my doorframe or my gate posts?
In the modern world that can take many different forms. Where I worked, where I hung out, who I spent time around, what I posted on social media. Was I  wearing my faith on my sleeve? 

Bit by bit, I started making changes but soon I came across a problem I didn’t anticipate.
I’m a working-class lad, grew up on a council estate and when I started this process I already had tattoos, piercings, and coloured hair. I had been in debt, struggled with unemployment, and a failed marriage. I had a lot of non-christian friends, I wasn’t in the best of places, but I was working my way through it all, with a good, solid Christian mentor and Jesus in my life.
I was thinking that I would get my tattoos removed, take out my piercings, cut my hair, stop going to my local rock bar and maybe start wearing flannel shirts.
I came to realise is that if I had gone that far, being quite ruthless, I was going to eliminate a lot of what made me who I was.  I wanted people to see the difference, but I didn’t want to be totally unrecognisable.
So instead of eliminating things altogether, I started making subtle changes. I still have a long ponytail and a beard, but it’s my natural color. I still enjoy rock music, live bands, and a few beers. I share my life through social media but I don’t shy away from speaking about my church or celebrating Christ. In my local rock bar, I became known as the Christian Wrestler. On my social media, I would often see my non-christian friends reacting positively to me speaking about Jesus and what he has done for me.
I believe its so important that we remember there is beauty in our scars, that our past is still a part of who we are. If anything, it shows the world that our God can redeem and restore anyone, no matter what they have been through.
At this time I had been a pro wrestler for a couple of years and this is where I made the most significant change.
I became more and more confident that we can all use the platforms we have to share a different message. While remaining accessible to those who are like us or relate to us, the biggest platform I had was in the wrestling world.
I changed my ring name from Crazy Gaz to Gareth Angel. I started to acquire nicknames like The Devine Avenger, Leader of the Angel Army, The Debt Saviour. My entrance music changed from rock and metal to epic and orchestral, Psalm 23 or The Lords Prayer would bellow over the speakers, I began to kneel and pray on the stage, quote scripture in my interviews and my shirt says Pray - Eat - Wrestle - Repeat.
Over time it became quite obvious that I am a Christian and what happened then was that people would ask me questions about my faith, other christian wrestlers would get in touch saying how encouraged they were and fans would start messaging me about issues they were facing.
By wearing my love for Jesus on my sleeve, I became the go-to guy for those I came into contact with, who were struggling in life. They were searching for God and knew I had the hotline to the big guy. This is as close to the definition of an ambassador as you get!
This passage became a life verse for me and it still helps me inform decisions in my life today.

My 7-month-old daughter Isabella is soaked in worship, and is prayed for daily. My wife Beth, is a godly woman who also isn’t shy to share her faith. We both know where our strength comes from.
With my work for Christians Against Poverty I am often interviewed for TV and Radio, I was featured in a BBC 2 documentary on our work. Even then, I did not shy away from what Jesus has done for me, sharing my story and praying for our clients.
I have taken this whole thing to the next level recently by starting GT Ministries, putting on wrestling events in churches up and down the country, with my testimony, smack bang in the middle, inviting people to respond to Jesus.

Unashamedly evangelistic, painting our hope in Christ on the gates, for everyone to see.
Alongside my wrestling attire, I have T-shirts with phrasing like Fearless Fighter - Faithful Follower. Kind of a hybrid message, acknowledging my masculinity and that I’m involved in a physical sport like wrestling, but also being really clear that I am a follower. 
Then they ask ‘who do you follow?’. I respond with ‘Jesus, you might have heard of him’.
I even have a cross tattoo on my forearm, that looks like its been painted on, to reference this passage.
As followers of Jesus, we have nothing to be ashamed of, we are in the world but not of it, we are salt and light and we have the best news in the world. Let us use our platforms to share the Gospel, invite people to know our rock, our hope, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Let us share what he has done for us, let us show our love for our neighbors in our deeds and when we walk into a room, let there be no denying the fragrance of Christ that follows us wherever we plant our feet.
So… Stand tall, lift your head high with your chest out, be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere, and He will use us as his ambassadors on earth, and I can guarantee...
When you walk like this, with your faith on your sleeve. You will see things shift in your life.
God bless you all!
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