20 January 2024

What makes Gladiators formidable?

Ivan Radford

A stylised photo shows the Gladiators from BBC One's Gladiators striking heroic poses.
Picture: Nick Eagle / BBC / Hungry Bear

As Gladiators returns to TV, Ivan Radford asks if we are united in our fight for the Kingdom of God.

Wolf. Rhino. Scorpio. Hunter. Jet. What do all those words have in common? The answer, for anyone whose family watched ITV in the 1990s, is Gladiators. The physical TV contest saw members of the public sign up to compete against this wealth of gladiatorial might in a string of challenges in front of a live audience.

Now revived for Saturday teatime on BBC One, and continuing tonight at 5.50pm, the series hasn’t changed its core format and some of the games themselves have even survived. There’s Duel, in which someone has to survive being hit by a giant foam stick on top of a tiny pillar. And there’s the infamous Eliminator, which pits two public contestants against each other in a race through an obstacle course that climaxes with the Travelator – a treadmill for people who only like to run up very steep hills.

Presented by Bradley and Barney Walsh, the new series includes Gladiators with names such as Legend, Fire, Bionic, Diamond and Viper. While these are new faces greeting the competitors as they step up to each neon-lit task, one thing continues to make them a force to be reckoned with: the Gladiators don’t fight against each other.

If, for example, Wolf and Hunter disagreed over whether a kazoo would be better than a whistle to start each round, they didn’t stop mid-Duel and start hitting each other with inflatable cotton buds. Or if Bionic felt that the show’s old referee, John Anderson, should be shouting ‘contenders, ready!’ rather than new umpire Mark Clattenburg, he wouldn’t start throwing gymnastic rings at Comet during the opening credits next week.

It’s not just the muscles that make the Gladiators a formidable presence; it’s their united front. No matter which Gladiator a contestant ends up going toe to toe with, they’re in no doubt that they’re facing a Gladiator. And not just because of the colour-coded Lycra uniforms.

‘Do you have the speed, the strength, the heart to be a winner?’ asks the show’s theme tune. As Christians, we know that our strength – our heart – is rooted in God, who is always with us. We also know that God is with us through the people he places around us. As part of the body of Christ, we can trust that we are supported by our fellow believers – ‘if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering’ (1 Corinthians 12:26 Amplified Bible) – as well as spurred on and encouraged to each do our bit.

Sometimes, that spurring on can be challenging, but our God is a God of relationships; as we grow in relationship with him, we also deepen our love for others and our understanding of God’s love for us. ‘Two are better than one,’ Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us. And Proverbs 27:17 observes: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’

Together is the only way that the Church can fully make God’s love visible to others in all its richness. Going into 2024, with all the challenges this broken world holds, united is the only way we as an Army can win the fight to help build God’s Kingdom here on Earth. I’m in. Fellow Gladiators, are you ready?

Reflect and respond

  • List all the things you have in common with other people in your corps. Thank God for these.
  • Consider the things you don’t have in common with other people in your corps. Ask God how you can grow and learn from these.
  • Where in your community can you work together to bring people to Jesus?

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

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