Saturday, June 11, 2016

The impression of a life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 13:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them.'" Acts 13:2

Some Bible characters are depicted in more glowing terms than others. Barnabas is one of those about which it's hard to find anything bad.

He first appeared early in Acts as one of the believers who sold his property and gave the money to the apostles. Perhaps it was this lightness of possessions that made it possible for him to play the prominent role he did in the early church. Here are some other things we discover about him as we follow him through the New Testament:
  • His brand was encouragement.
Right from the outset he was known as an encourager with his real name Joses replaced by the nickname Barnabas - "Son of Encouragement" - Acts 4:36-37.
  • He championed the cause of the outsider.
He brought Saul/Paul into the fellowship in Jerusalem when everyone else was afraid of him (Acts 9:27). Then he encouraged a Gentile church plant (Acts 11:22-24).
  • He was trustworthy.
He was chosen by the Antioch church to courier an offering to famine-stricken believers in Judea (Acts 11:30).
  • He was useful for the spread of the gospel.
In our reading today, we see that the Holy Spirit singled him out, with Paul, for a special assignment - Acts 13:1-2.
  • He was tough.
He endured persecution, and gladly - Acts 13:50-52. In fact he had a reputation for risking his life for Jesus and the Gospel - Acts 15:25-26.
  • He wasn't a free-loader.
He labored, along with Paul, at a day-job to cover his expenses - 1 Corinthians 9:6.
  • He was content to let his student shine.
He went out of his way to get Paul involved in the church, but once Paul came into his own, Barnabas let him take the limelight as the chief speaker - Acts 14:12.

But even Barnabas wasn't perfect.
  • He was stubborn determined
Because he was fixed on his plan to take his cousin John Mark with them on a second missionary journey (JM had proved himself a quitter by leaving them on a previous trip), the Paul-and-Barnabas-duo split up - Acts 15:36-39.
  • He could be influenced by the wrong crowd.
He let himself be swayed by those Christian leaders who counseled that they separate themselves from uncircumcised Gentiles — a move that Paul labeled hypocritical - Galatians 2:13.

All in all, though, this overview of Barnabas leaves us with the impression of a life well lived. It brings me to the question what would the various snippets of my life add up to if someone gathered them into a list of characteristics, as I have done with Barnbas's? What about yours?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Bible characters like Barnabas, whose human failings assure me that You use even the imperfect. May the final impression of my life be as positive as Barnabas's is. Amen.

MORE: The Feast of St. Barnabas

Today is the Feast of St. Barnabas. The liturgy for today begins with this collect:

"Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-­being 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."
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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