And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24, 25
No, I’m not thinking of Fr. Timothy’s dog in Jan Karon’s “Mitford Series.” As delightful as I found big, shaggy Barnabas, I’m thinking of a saint with the same name who appears throughout Acts and in a couple of Paul’s letters.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and that’s just what we find Barnabas doing at almost every sighting. For instance, Luke writes in Acts 4 that Barnabas was generous in selling a property he owned and bringing the proceeds to the apostles to apply to the needs of other believers. His example surely must have stirred others to follow his lead.
After Saul experienced his dramatic conversion on the Damascus road, he tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were all afraid of him. It was Barnabas who went to Saul and brought him into the closed group, telling them about Saul’s amazing encounter with the Lord and about his preaching afterwards. It was because of Barnabas’s courage that Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) was accepted by the church and freed to speak and teach about Jesus in Jerusalem.
Later, when the church at Jerusalem heard that Greeks in Antioch had believed and turned to the Lord upon hearing the Good News, whom did they send to encourage those new believers? Barnabas. And when he arrived, his faith and Spirit-filled life caused many more people to come to the Lord. But Barnabas didn’t stop there. He went to find Paul (who had gone to Tarsus) to come help disciple the new believers, and it was at Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” (followers of Christ).
When Paul took his first missionary trip, the Holy Spirit directed that Barnabas accompany him. A bit later in the journey, young John Mark left the group and headed back home while Paul and Barnabas traveled extensively throughout Asia preaching and establishing new groups of disciples. Sometime after their return, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they make another trip to check on the fledgling churches, and Barnabas wanted to take John Mark. Scripture notes that they had a “sharp disagreement” wherein Paul refused to let Mark be part of the mission. It may be that Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance. Whatever it was that caused Mark to leave them earlier, Barnabas forgave him and invited him to go with him as they parted company with Paul on their second missionary voyage.
Notice the beautiful characteristics that identified Barnabas: generosity, trust, advocate, reconciler, encourager, “discipler”. Barnabas was the kind of person you would want with you when the chips were down. Everywhere he went, Barnabas seemed to radiate a deep-seated joy, confidence, and Jesus’ amazing love. He modeled redemption, just like his Lord. He was the saint who lived into his name.
If you had one call to make, you’d want it to be to Barnabas.
Father, make us Barnabases who go around lifting and cheering, affirming and encouraging because of who you are in us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.