What is this life sometimes? When pain and promise mingle in an exquisite bittersweetness?
I can’t make sense of it. Maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe you aren’t, either. Maybe the tart and the sugar mixing together simply is. And meant to be embraced.
Kate says: cheer.
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. …
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. …
Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and 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. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. …
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.’ Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. …
– Acts 436-37, 9:27, 11:22-26, 15:36-39 (NKJV)
I love Barnabas. I want to have a long conversation with him one day. I want to hear his stories. I want to know when he decided that encouragement was his life’s work. How he came to understand that he’d been supernaturally gifted to cheer on others. For while he doesn’t appear often in the Acts narrative, almost every time he does he’s pulling for the underdog. Championing the little guy. He even went so far as to separate from his best friend in order to give Mark one more chance.
That’s a guy I want to know.
That’s a person I want to be.
There’s enough criticism in the world, and not the constructive kind (which we all need). It’s the tear-you-down-to-prove-I’m-better kind. Barnabas wasn’t into that and we shouldn’t be, either. We don’t see him putting on airs or stepping on others or trying to be more and better than what he is. He recognized his call, knew his place, and stepped into it gladly.
I imagine that as Paul sat in that cold jail cell near the end of his life, his thoughts turned to Barnabas. Where would he be without the stranger quickly turned friend? What would have happened if he hadn’t cleared the way? Hadn’t convinced the apostles that Paul was the real deal? How would he have ministered in those first shaky days without Joses, the Son of Encouragement?
Of course Paul had been tasked with a special mission by God Himself, but all throughout his letters he expresses his love and thanks for his fellow believers. He needed them. He wasn’t ashamed to admit it, either. If the greatest missionary to ever live couldn’t do it alone, then certainly none of us can.
We never know how God might use us to impact and influence others. Let us resolve that the ways in which we touch people will be positive, full of grace and truth.
Let us cheer each other on.