Be a Barnabas

Mary Lou FosterPastor's Blog, Uncategorized

Cross and Flame

Be a Barnabas: Be an Encourager!

Imbedded in the Acts of the Apostles is a “sub-story” that the writer, Luke, shares with all readers. Along with Simon Peter and the Apostle Paul, the two main persons in this early history of the Christian Church, is a man named Barnabas. His name literally means “Son of Encouragement” and every time we read his name, he is trying to be of help, lifting up, or encouraging someone else. In Acts 4:36-37, Luke slips Barnabas into the story of the church: “There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Since Levites could not own land in Israel, this property was most likely was in Cyprus. The very first mention of Barnabas is a man giving out of his own heart.

In Acts 9:27, we encounter Barnabas after the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road. He has started preaching the Good News, but is still fearful because of prior crimes against the Church. So much so, that no one will help him. “So Barnabas took him, brought him (still Saul of Tarsus but converted) to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.” Once Barnabas lasted onto Saul (soon to become Paul), he was accepted among the Jerusalem apostles.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Barnabas’ story is found in Acts 11:19-26 where the church of Antioch was growing fast. From verse 21 forward, we read: “The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number became believers and turned (meaning to repent) to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem (Mother Church), and sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted (urged) them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he (Barnabas) was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (literally “little Christs).”

Except for an occasional reference in Paul’s writings, we never hear again “Biblically” from Barnabas. Folklore has him becoming a Christian martyr in Cyprus. A book purportedly written by Mark called “The Acts of Barnabas” was written much later. And some historians even think the Book of Hebrews was written by him. In some way, he vanishes without a trace. Contemporary Christian writer, Liz Curtis Higgs, refers to herself as An Encourager. Perhaps, what most of us ought to be and should desire to become is a Barnabas, an Encourager. We traverse a fast-paced, high-tech, nervous and unsure world. Any word can apply to our emotions and feelings (wounded, broken, hurting, rejected, etc.). Be a Barnabas! Be an Encourager! Walk in someone’s shoes. Share their pain. Feel the love of God through you in Jesus Christ our Lord! “We are one in the bond of love!”