TO CHEW ON: "When he (Barnabas) came and he had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord." Acts 11:23-24
A while ago I read a book called How You Leave Them Feeling.* In it, author Jesse Ferrell puts forth the thesis that you will succeed in business, indeed in life, to the extent that you leave people feeling good about themselves. I think Mr. Ferrell would have approved of Barnabas.
Barnabas was from a Jewish Cypriot priestly family. John Mark was his cousin (Acts 4:36) He is mentioned often in Acts. Here are some of the qualities that endeared him to his fellow Christians and continue to make him a model for us today.
1. He was generous. He was one of the early Christians who sold his property and gave the proceeds to the church (Acts 4:34-36) while at the same time remaining self-supporting (1 Corinthians 9:5,6).
2. He was a welcoming person and an encourager. When some in the Jerusalem church suspected that the newly converted Saul was actually a spy, Barnabas accepted his story at face-value and introduced him to the top leadership (Acts 9:27)
3. He was an astute judge of talents and gifts. When he saw the way the Gentiles were flocking to the Lord in Antioch, he set out to find Saul (later Paul) as just the right person to get involved (our reading today).
4. He was a team player. When Agabus prophesied a famine and the Antioch Christians took up an offering for fellow-believers in Judea, Barnabas and Saul delivered the "relief"(Acts 11:28-30). Later, Barnabas accompanied Saul/Paul on what we now call Paul's first missionary journey. (Acts 13:2,3)
5. He let others shine. It looks like during that first missionary journey, Barnabas relinquished the leadership role he had in his relationship with Paul. Note how Luke at first refers to them as Barnabas and Saul, then later it's always Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2,3 vs. Acts 13:43,46)
6. He championed the underdog. He spoke on behalf of the Gentiles (Acts 15:12).
7. He believed in second chances. When Paul didn't want to take John Mark with them on another trip because he had deserted them earlier, Barnabas stood up for the young man, insisting that he should come. Their disagreement led to Paul and Barnabas splitting from each other and forming two outreach teams (Acts 15:36-41).
I love the picture our reading in Acts 11 paints of him. The first thing we see is a smile: "he was glad" (vs 23). He encouraged them - was an optimist and positive, not negative; someone who looked for a way something could be done instead of reasons why it couldn't. He is described as a "good man" (vs. 24). That could mean lots of things. I take it to mean he was honest, fair and kind. Finally, Luke also describes him as "full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (vs. 24). I wish I could have met him.
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to learn about living the Christian life from people like Barnabas. Amen.
MORE: Feast of St. Barnabas
Today is the celebration of the Feast of St. Barnabas on the church calendar. Here is the Collect that begins the liturgy for this day.
Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the wellbeing of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.*My review of How You Leave Them Feeling.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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