Encouragement, we all could use it now and then. Whether in the form of a kind word, loving gesture or standing along side us in troubled times.
Recently I was studying the conversion of Saul (known later as “Paul”) in Acts 9, when I ran head long into Barnabas. I love this guy. When Saul went to Jerusalem and attempted to have fellowship with the disciples, they were afraid and would not accept him. They didn’t believe him to now be a true disciple (a learner, in this case, a learner of Jesus, one who positions himself to understand, accepting the instruction given and makes it his rule of conduct). Saul’s prior “conduct” was contradictive of the teachings of Jesus. What was this man’s angle? The man who “breathed out murderous threats” (9:1), who now claims to be a Jesus follower and wants in their ranks.
- We tend to fear what we don’t understand, what we don’t see. They hadn’t seen any true evidence —yet.
“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (v27). Barnabas, (Joseph) a Levite, he is first mentioned in Acts 4:36. He is nicknamed by the apostles “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement” which is quite fitting as he introduced the newly converted Saul to the circle of believers. Barnabas also stood up for the young John Mark when Paul did not want to take him with them on their missionary journey (15:36-39).*
What did Barnabas see in Saul that the others didn’t? We can speculate till the cows come home, yet it seems to be Barnabas’ nature; he was an encourager (one who invokes courage with presence and action). After all, he did take Saul to the apostles, testifying that Saul HAD an encounter with Jesus and Saul “preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (v27b). I doubt Saul went kicking and screaming, but what a bold act for Barnabas, putting his own relationship/reputation on the line with the spiritual leaders for the former persecutor of the church now turned promoter.
Not only was Barnabas an encourager, but he was also a reconciler. Placing Saul before the church leaders, was an act of reconciliation, for Saul AND the leadership and the believing church. Reconciliation where there was once strife, hostility, and of recent, misunderstanding.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Many read that quickly and interpret it as “peacekeeper.” There is a difference between maker and keeper.
Peacekeepers listen, notice, pay close attention and draw others in (Group hug). Peacekeepers tend to the comfort of others, embracing both sides of an argument—equally. Attempting to please both sides, hoping to not rock the boat—playing a balancing act. But peacekeepers can make themselves small and keep their own voice quiet to avoid conflict, settling for a false peace in hopes of avoiding relational fallout.
Peacemakers promote God’s peace, (total well-being and wholeness through the redemptive work of Jesus) with “whatever it takes” tactics. It is active, intentional, and discerning. They engage in messy, back-breaking, work—and they don’t care so much whether anyone is comfortable (including themselves). Their goal is God’s goal. Bring what has been toppled over back into its slotted place, erecting God and God stuff at the center of it all, which is true peace.
Barnabas was an encourager, reconciler, and peacemaker. May we all have a “But Barnabas” in our life. May we all BE a “But Barnabas” for others.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
* Paul later sees the good (and God) in Mark and makes mention of him (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Phm 1:24).