Be a Barnabas
If you have been around the Christian faith very much, you have likely heard of a guy named Paul and maybe even his conversion story, but to recap…
Saul (also called Paul, but that is another story), was a guy who was at the top of his game studying Jewish Law and the Torah, determined to root out all those pesky Jesus followers that were causing such a ruckus (Acts 8:1-3). Saul was en route to Damascus with the sole purpose of arresting those that “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:1-2), when he had a radical encounter with Jesus that quite literally caused a complete 180° in Saul’s life. (Acts 9:3-19). Saul, the same guy that was actively and aggressively persecuting Jesus’s followers just days before, “immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues” (Acts 9:20).
I can understand why the disciples were hesitant to trust this guy! But I can also sympathize with Saul in why he would desperately want to associate with fellow believers. I would imagine Saul felt lonely and maybe even a little scared, after all his former colleagues and friends were now plotting to put him to death (Acts 9:23-24). Seeking out like-minded new friends only makes sense, but it would not be easy.
“When he [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” Acts 9:26-28
And this tragic, how Saul was flat out rejected by the disciples when he first returned to Jerusalem after encountering Jesus.
Barnabas was just an average Joe, pun intended since his real name was Joseph, who the disciples nicknamed “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:26-37). The Bible doesn’t give us any indication that Barnabas and Saul were friends or even knew each other previously, but Barnabas was willing to speak up for Saul, to be his friend, to encourage him and bring him into the inner circle. Why? Because he was a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24).
Now, I started this by referencing how virtually anyone that has been around Christianity has heard of Paul, but Barnabus doesn’t really have that same clout. And while Paul is one of the most influential leaders in the early Church, Barnabas isn’t typically even on the list of Biblical heroes. He wasn’t one of the twelve disciples, he isn’t attributed to writing any of the books of the Bible, he doesn’t have one named after him, in fact, he is only mentioned a handful of times throughout the New Testament, but I offer this thought for pondering… What if Barnabas wasn’t there to encourage Saul? What if Barnabas had never stood up for Saul? What if Barnabas never brought Saul into the disciples’ inner circle, which ultimately led to sending Saul out into the world to preach the truth of Jesus?
Far too often, we miss the opportunity to be like Barnabas. We are busy with work, school, family… life. We are put off by someone’s past, the way they look, the choices they make, or the beliefs they hold. We find it simpler to just ignore them than to get to know, much less encourage, them. It is far easier to stay in our own inner circle than to bring someone else into it. We have our set friends and we don’t want to rock the boat or change the dynamic that is working. But is it possible that the Lord is calling you to be the Barnabas to the Paul of our generation? Or to be an encouraging friend to someone that is simply trying to find their way? To be the encouraging mentor to a new believer? To speak up with the encouraging truth of Jesus to someone struggling in their faith? Sometimes we are just too busy trying to be “Paul” to the people around us that we forget that sometimes there is a need for us to be “Barnabas.”
I challenge each of us to look in our hearts, to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, for ways we can be more like Barnabas in our daily lives.
Father God, I thank you for Jesus, the great encourager! Thank you for the relationships you have blessed me with and the ability to fellowship in Your name. Holy Spirit, I pray that you will soften my heart for those that need a Barnabas. Help me to be quick to include others. Guide me to those that need encouragement and use me to speak Your truth and love to them. Amen
Take a moment to pray for whoever comes to mind and seek the Lord for how you can be an encouragement to them.
What is one small change you can make today to be a Barnabas to someone you already know?