People continue to ask my opinion about the violence and discord in the country.
In the past, I have written about legislation and asked people of faith to stand up. I am pleased to note that local churches and religious groups have been and continue to be very active in their outreach programs to help those in need.
Many religious leaders are standing up and speaking out as I wrote earlier. I pray that good people will make a difference. The Bible frequently explains the way we should act as found in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The process of studying and praying should provide the will, courage and strength to live and act with good intentions.
I realize that many of us carry the burden of personal pain and some feel the heaviness of our country’s problems. I decided to look to a person in the Bible and found Barnabas. He was an important disciple from the first century who spread the words of Christ and helped in the establishment of the first churches.
We also need to remember the will, courage and strength that motivated these early followers of Jesus. They traveled extensively and faced physical punishment and death. With their vision and sacrifices, they gave Christianity a foundation.
First, I write about this man to reveal a little about his relationship with Paul. Barnabas introduced Paul to the disciples in Acts 9:27: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”
Even though Barnabas accepted Paul’s conversion, some apostles did not. Paul returned to Tarsus, and Barnabas worked with the church in Antioch. “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.” Barnabas found that he needed Paul’s help, and he went to Tarsus. Paul returned with him, and they worked together for a year in Antioch and then worked with the poor in Jerusalem.
Both are called disciples in Acts 14:13-15, “The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they ran among the multitude, saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are men who preached to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.’ ”
In the following years, the two had different opinions and approaches. Paul became successful as a missionary and continued his work with churches. Both were important in their works and spreading Christianity.
It is true that the early Christians had disputes, and some questioned the beliefs of others. Yet, we know that the words and deeds of Jesus always rise above the challenges and survive.
The second reason for writing about Barnabas is to explain his character. He is mentioned in Acts 4:36-37, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas which means son of encouragement sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” He was a charitable person who cared for the poor. He also was a nurturing person as witnessed with the support he gave his cousin John Mark. Paul did not recognize John Mark’s potential, but John Mark proved helpful to the early churches.
Barnabas’ nurturing nature and his dedication to the poor make him a good example of the way to live. His name speaks of his character as a comforter. We all need people who encourage and comfort us. We all should be willing to bring comfort and encouragement to those with physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
For readers’ consideration, I end with a few words from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address,”With malice toward none; with charity for all … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”