Once there was a gentle, happy-go-lucky man from a village somewhere in the heart of England. The village was typically English – small, green, personal and even had a pub called the Farmers Arms and a pond called the Millers Pond and a post office and a baker right in the center of the village. The man’s name was James Russell and he was a very devout Christian that rarely went to church (he hated the conformity) but loved God very much and loved to share the gospel very much.
James was small not big would wear spectacles that looked cheap and would love to talk with anyone that was willing to listen about everything and anything in particular. Old Mrs. Jones whom lived next door would always say to James “don’t you ever stop talking?’ She meant nothing by it, she liked James. James Russell now lived alone his loyal wife had died just a few years earlier in strange circumstance. During a village fete a runaway horse and cart crushed her last breath out of her until she was no more.
Since her death James had become more and more pre-occupied and zealous for his faith in his God whom he loved very much. He figured it helped him during his dark times so it can help others during these dark times. James really did love God. In fact James Russell had become so devout in his faith that he decided to give his time back to God and share more with others. After all Jesus said there is more happiness in giving than receiving and James was finding this happiness to be true. So for the first Sunday of every month (unless it was Christmas day on that Sunday) he would go into a neighbouring village and preach the word of God to any man, any woman or any person willing to listen.
James rarely did this in his own village as they knew of him, knew of him and knew of his endless teachings about Godliness. Because of this they never listened to hardly a word he would say. The first Sunday of the month arrived, it was May and it was warm. James Russell awoke, ate his light breakfast of cornflakes and milk to be washed down by his favorite black breakfast tea went through a little prayer he would always say especially on the day he went out to share the gospels. His prayer went like this… “God above watch me today, God above protect me today, God above give me strength, God about keep me safe. God above send me an Angel to protect me, thank you for everything, Amen” It was always the same prayer, not from a book just a few words that made him feel better and he thought God would appreciate and support him during his self-imposed ministry.
The local minister disliked James. His efforts in talking about his Christian faith simply exposed the minister’s lack of efforts in sharing faith and real knowledge of the scriptures. The local minister was a small fat bald man with no manners and an appetite for praise (and food and wine). All he ever spoke about was fund-raising and evenings with groups of men or women that were collecting more money for things that no one ever seemed to know about or even care about or even what the money was being spent on.
Most parishioners were uncomfortable with the collecting but most did what they always did and questioned nothing. The minister rarely spoke about the scriptures unless it was a holy period like Easter and even then it was from a script. The minister would mention James in the odd sermon now and then from his rotten oak pulpit that was now being propped up by an old tree that had been chopped and dried but not cut to shape. It supported the left side of the pulpit and always looked ready to collapse especially with the arrival of the overweight man in the dog collar and black tunic stood on the top. He would warn his parishioners about the crazy guy called James Russell that had no authority from God to talk about anything as he wasn’t ordained or studied. James found the clergyman him irrelevant at every level (he was). James also knew his scriptures and understood any man that has a tongue has permission to share his thoughts on faith. Once the clergyman stopped James in the local grocer shop that was full of people that knew James (they found him rather eccentric) and those same people had an unhealthy fear based respect for the little fat, self-righteous man of the cloth. The Minister said to James in a loud, arrogant and self-imposing voice…
“James Russell where did you get your authority from to speak to others about Holy Scripture?”
Of course the purpose of this question was to try and make James look a fool whilst elevating him self to a greater place in the eyes of the small crowd. Silence fell on the shop full of locals and James took a moment to reflect on the words of the arrogant minister.
“Sir what was the profession of Simon Peter the apostle?’
“He was a Fisherman of course”
“Was a he man of letters and of ordination?”
The minster knew the answer but didn’t want to reply in front of the locals because the truth would give James the authority in the eyes of the people to carry on what they he was doing and the truth would also expose the hypocrisy of himself.
“I have no time for this I have a flock to feed.”
And with that rolled out of the grocers and scurried back quickly to the protection of his old stone church. Now it was time to leave home for his ministry. James would have one final look in the mirror, straighten his red and blue striped necktie, make sure that his freshly pressed white shirt with its perfectly creased collar and jacket looked spotlessly clean and then off he would go driving his humble, cheap model car into a village not too far away. James always loved the drive over. There were trees, lots of trees, big one, huge ones, and old oak at least 200 years old.
There were acres and acres of fields, lots of them. Some were flat; others rolled up and down like a fairground ride with layer after layer of greenery. There were animals, sheep, cows and even ostrich on the eco farm by the old brook to be looked at and admired as he drove along on this fine May Day. Meanwhile in the village not to far away where James was heading two young policemen had been told to sit and wait and listen and look and watch out for for a man a very bad man. The man was a very very bad man and known to the police with a criminal record so long it went onto five sheets of paper. He was so bad in fact everyone would say, “If you ever see him coming towards you look away or turn around” Just one look into the bad mans eyes could enrage him so much he wouldn’t think twice about lashing out and knocking your block off. You never spoke to the bad man. You never went near the bad man. You’d never ever dare even knock on the door of the bad man. The man’s name was Pete Brown. He was a sad figure but terrifying all the same. Standing tall at around 6 feet 4 inches his head was shaved and bore the scars of many an old fight. His left eye was missing, it had been pulled out in a fight 7 years before during a 9-month stay in prison. Despite his huge belly he his arm muscles were bigger than the leg muscles of any average man. Pete Brown was so strong it was said he could lift a car and throw it at the police if he wanted to although no one had ever seen that happen. He always wore a vest. No coat, no jumper even in winter he wore no more than a vest on top. His tattoos went from his neck to his fingertips. One tattoo said, “kill all coppers,” the one next to it was a heart that said “mum” and the he also had another menacing tattoo that was a simple Nazi swastika that would offend everyone and anyone that caught sight of it. Pete Brown loved the attention and loved to hit out at anyone that would even dare to look at him. The police suspected he had killed a man. They believed he killed the man in a fit of rage because the man that was now dead had asked him in a café if he was feeling ok as he looked a little fed-up. The man clearly had no idea of Pete’s reputation. The bad man didn’t like being asked anything by anyone so as soon as the man that asked the question left the café the bad man left right behind him (witnesses refused to speak but everything was captured on CCTV).
The next thing anyone knew was the man asking the question was seen floating in the local duck pond face down. The police wanted to get him but no one would say anything, they were all in fear of the bad man who seemed to be getting worse, and more violent as time went forward. So the policemen sat there in there unmarked car, in their unmarked clothes eating endless crisps and junk food on the corner of Dalton Street and Elgar Street so they could see both directions whilst waiting patiently for any sight and sound of Pete Brown the bad man who lived at house number 10 second from the end of the street. Finally with a huge smile and a slightly nervous feeling in his belly – (James was always nervous about the reactions of people but he also knew it would be fine as God would look after him – he hoped) – James arrived in the village, parked his car and then had to decide what street he would walk along. His routine was always the same. James would go from door to door and ask the householder questions related to spiritual matters. As you can imagine most people never like to be asked questions about faith as it was so personal to them and some were almost so offended they would shout, scream and sometime even hit James. He was undeterred because as far as he was concerned it was critical for him to spread the word of goodness about God, about his scriptures and about being happier living with a faith. He climbed out of his car, put on his summer jacket and armed only with a small Jerusalem version of the bible, James decided to first walk along Elgar Street and then if he had time he also walk along Dalton Street and see if he could have a nice chat to anyone what was willing to listen.
One of the Policeman in the car spotted James and said to his partner
“Who is that guy going from house to house, any ideas?”
“Yes he is well known bible preacher that goes from door to door talking about God”
“Should we warn him about going to number 10 as I’m pretty sure Pete Brown won’t react in a good way, what do you think?”
Both officers looked at each other just for a moment until one said
“OK I’ll go and warn him”
The policeman jumped out of the car and slowly walked towards James Russell so as not to act like anything was wrong just in case Pete Brown could be watching. He approached James and stopped him.
“Excuse me sir I am a policeman (and then showed him his ID) can you tell me what you are doing here?’
“I am going from door to door to share the word of God with as many people that will be willing to listen.”
“Sir I have to warn you not to go along Dalton Street as there is a really bad man that lives at the second to last house – No. 10 – who could threaten you and possibly hurt you”
“But I have to do this as everyone deserves to hear the Bible”
There was nothing the policeman could do to deter James from heading into possible disaster at No1. 10 Dalton Street the home of bad man Pete Brown. The policeman walked cautiously back to his unmarked car to warn his partner that the man couldn’t be stopped so they would both have to be prepared and ready to run and save the man from Pete Brown if that was needed. Nervously they watched as James Russell went from door 2, door 4, door 6, door 8 and finally the door of Pete Brown – door No. 10! James walked up the path at No. 10. He knocked and no one answered. He knocked again even harder and this time man came to the curtains and looked angrily at James. Still he never came to the door so James knocked again one last time, as he knew the man was at home and he never liked to leave if he knew they were actually in the house. Suddenly the door flew open. James was startled and jumped back. Pete Brown looked like a man ready to do some damage. The policemen also watched in fear from their car as the door flew open and Pete Brown looked absolutely enraged to the point his face was purple and looked as though his head was about to burst. They could see Pete Brown almost jump out of the door looking like he was about to snatch the Bible destroy the book first and James Russell second. As the Pete Brown man lifted his hands the policemen were about to jump out of the car and run up the street until suddenly Pete Brown stopped and stepped back and then – smiled – something of an unknown for him. The policemen were anticipating something about to happen but the reality from where they sat looked very different. Suddenly violent Pete Brown appeared to be enjoying the company of James Russell or just tolerating his company for some unknown reason. The police were baffled as to what was going on. At the front door itself James Russell spoke softly to the Pete Brown. He shared with him Matthew chapter 5 and showed him through the Sermon on the Mount. To James the man didn’t seem to be really listening but just seemed to tolerate James and his biblical teachings. James didn’t think too much of that because that reaction was quite common.
James Russell finished speaking and sharing and chattering on and said to Pete Brown
“Thank you for your time today, I hope we can speak again and I hope I can share more of Gods word with you”
“Good to meet you both”
Replied Pete Brown. James offered his hand to shake; Pete shook his hand and quickly went back into his home looking like the fear of God had literally taken him. The policemen couldn’t wait to question James. James was asking himself why all the bad talk about this man as he seemed reasonable to him and could really find no offense in him. James Russell walked down the path content and fulfilled that the lord’s work had been done until the next first Sunday until the next month.
As he walked down the short street and around the corner both the policemen were waiting to speak to him.
“Excuse me sir, police we’d like to speak with you again”
“Of course officers what can I do for you?”
“The man at No. 10 I warned you about, what happened there?”
“Well nothing really happened, I knocked on his door, he came to the door and frankly he scared me to death as he seemed so angry I thought he was about to rip my head off. Suddenly he stopped, he calmed down, I felt calm but he got to the point where he suddenly went pale in his skin and looked a little fearful.”
“Why what did you say to him?”
“Nothing any different to what I usually speak to householders when sharing the Bible but I did notice one thing – he kept looking behind me looked like a child – a bit scared, he looked the same every time he looked beyond me”
The policeman told James Russell
“You are very lucky as this man is wanted in connection with murder”.
James Russell couldn’t believe his ears – murder – who’d believe it he thought of himself. James Russell walked over to his car, got into his car and drove home through the beautiful countryside whilst thinking over what the police had told him after his encounter with Pete Brown and also thinking about how this wild lion had become a gentle sheep whilst he spoke to him. Just 3 days later the very same two policemen were in their police station eating a sandwich and speaking about nothing in particular when mad and bad Pete Brown walked into the police station to give himself up. Both officers were dumbfounded.
The same offers that had spoken to James Russell came from behind the desk and spoke to Pete Brown.
“What can I do for you sir?”
“I want to hand myself in for killing the man in the pond and other crimes I am ready to admit.”
Big bad Pete Brown sat down, cried.
“Please just lock me up.”
The policeman got his captain; they interviewed Pete Brown quickly and then escorted him to a cell until they could decide what to do. The policemen who were watching Pete Brown for weeks in the car were scratching their heads in amazement and couldn’t work out what had happened.
Pete brown called the officer
“I want to talk”
The police officer sat down with him and said
“I killed that man. I did the crimes you want me for – I am rotten, bad and stupid. I just want to be forgiven. You know, just three days ago I was at home angry and ready to commit more crime when there was a knock on my door. I opened the door to see a guy that called himself James Russell who wanted to talk to be about the Bible of all things. I hate religion I hate the Bible. I was beat up time and time again at my convent school, bullied and abused by religious masters. Maybe that’s what made me the man I have become today. I saw red almost right away and wanted to hit him and throw him away from my doorstep that was until I noticed the other guy stood behind him. He was as tall as the tallest man I know and as wide as a tree and had something about him but I don’t know what. He didn’t smile, he hardly moved, his eyes were fixed, rooted on me and just his presence froze me to the spot. I have no idea who he was, James spoke but I never really heard him, the big guy scared me and I just wanted to close the door. Do you believe in Angels?”
The policemen looked at each other puzzled. Meanwhile that morning while James was at home getting ready for his day he repeated the same small prayer he repeats everyday of his life.
“God above watch me today, God above protect me today, God above give me strength, God about keep me safe. God above send me an Angel to protect me, thank you for everything, Amen”
The Man Behind The Man
By Alan Forrest Smith