"When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus." Acts 9:26-27 (NRSV)
When I was growing up, I had a good friend named Timmy. Timmy was always there for me and was always encouraging me to do better and be better. I remember a time in middle school when we were at a party and some of the kids starting saying some negative things about me. I could tell by the whispers and glances heading my way (middle schoolers are never subtle) that they were picking on me and that they weren’t talking about how "cool" I was. When I saw Timmy enter the group and also start to engage, I was initially hurt (think about it, this was 30 years ago, and I still remember who, where, and what I felt). But later he approached me and shared what was going on. They tried to get Timmy in on it, but instead he changed the conversation to focus on my positive attributes and how they were misunderstanding me. It made sense to me, because when I looked back to that painful moment, I remembered that after Timmy joined the conversation, the awkward whispers and looks ceased. I was so thankful to have a friend like Timmy. That is exactly what Paul needed in a very uncertain time in his new found faith and ministry, and Barnabas was there for him. When everyone else was whispering and talking about how suspect they were of Paul, Barnabas was there to tell them of how Jesus had truly changed him. At a time when Paul may have wanted to give up trying to be part of the church, Barnabas was there affirming what was true - Paul was changed, a child of God, and real part of Christ’s church. The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement," and he lived true to his name. We all need people in our lives to encourage us in our walk with Jesus and we all need to be a Barnabas to others as well. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I am glad Timmy was part of my life back then. Don’t you want people to say the same about you concerning their relationship with Jesus? Then pray and ask Jesus to show you who you need to be a Barnabas to. He will show you and encourage you so you can encourage them!