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. 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. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Earlier on in chapter 9 we read that Saul has been converted by his dramatic experience on the way to Damascus. However, when he tried to join the disciples they would not let him, it was understandable, as a short time earlier Saul had been violently opposed to them. It was Barnabas who provided the crucial role of ‘go between’ to bring the convert Saul and the established Christians together. This resulted in Saul (who became Paul) becoming a great servant of Christ and a huge influence on the church, then and indeed now.
This passage has much to teach us especially in relation to Barnabas, of what a crucial role reconcilers, encouragers play. Today, at the Emirates stadium, London there is the ‘Justone’ event, it is hoped that thousands of Christian will do a Barnabas act of encouraging ‘just one’ non-Christian friend to go to the event with them. It is hoped that these friends will hear the Christian message and respond positively, then there is often the need for another Barnabas type act of helping those who have responded to the gospel to be integrated into a church where they can be ‘let in’, welcomed so that they can grow in faith.
There are many other ways in which we need to be reconcilers and encouragers like Barnabas which there is not space to go into here. It is especially poignant if we reflect upon Damascus in Syria where Saul was converted and the situation there now.
Dear Lord, we thank you for Saul’s conversion and for Barnabas’ part in his story. We give you thanks that people in our own time continue to respond to you as Saul did. We pray that some will do so today at the ‘Justone’ event. We also pray that we can all be like Barnabas in encouraging and reconciling. We also continue to pray for Syria, that there may be people who encourage peace and reconciliation in that troubled land. In Jesus name, we pray, Amen.
The Rev’d Andrew Willett is an Evangelism and Renewal advocate for GEAR and local URC minister.