Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Son of Encouragement

Jewish law allowed only the sons of Levi to perform the sacred duties of the temple. One such Levite was a man named Joseph. Joseph became a Christian shortly after the resurrection of Christ. So inspired was Joseph that he sold his lands to help the needy in the young church. He inspired his fellow Christians so much that they re-named him Barnabas--“son of encouragement.”

As Barnabas, he took the risk and introduced Paul to the young church in Jerusalem. That went poorly at first; Jerusalem Christians wanted no part of Paul, or Saul as he had been known. He had persecuted Christians fiercely and vigorously and the suffering church distrusted this zealous-but-new convert to Christ.

As a result, Joseph--now Barnabas--stayed on; he mentored Paul and bridged the gap between the former prosecutor and the victimized. Barnabas later accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. Eventually Barnabas and Paul disagreed; Barnabas, always the encourager, insisted on giving John Mark a second chance. Young John Mark had deserted his friends; Paul was severely disappointed and had enough of him.

As a result, Paul searched out a new companion--Silas. These two--Paul and Silas--were reportedly singing in prison at the midnight hour; soon they were evangelizing Europe. Europe owes considerable to this man Barnabas, a man willing to play second fiddle to the person he mentored, after risking his neck to extend the hand of fellowship to Paul because people feared Paul as potentially dangerous to their health and safety.

Many western churches now celebrate June 11 as a way of remembering Barnabas on the Christian calendar. Even more widely celebrated is the memory of Barnabas among Christians of every spectrum, the man who spent his life giving encouragement--Barnabas, son of encouragement.

Whatever else your gift may be, our current culture finds sons of encouragement of the stature of Barnabas in short supply. Would you risk it?

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