14th June 2023

This past Sunday was St Barnabas’ Day, not that I’m usually a groupie for ‘official’ saints. However, Barnabas is one of my New Testament heroes, a man whose significance in the story of the Early Church is easily overlooked. This ‘son of encouragement’ was the brave soul prepared to believe that Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the Church, had himself become a follower of Jesus, at a time when everyone else in the Church was extremely wary and suspicious. Barnabas supported Saul – later to become Paul the apostle – speaking up for him before the apostles in Jerusalem (see Acts 9). It was Barnabas who helped make Paul both acceptable and respectable within the Church and who accompanied him on what we know as the 1st Missionary Journey. Sadly, this extremely fruitful partnership was eventually to break up because of disagreement, but that’s a story for another day.

I’m truly grateful to God for the Barnabases who’ve played a part in my journey – those who took an interest in me, saw rudimentary potential and encouraged my progress, who were patient with me when I was hesitant, who gave me opportunity where others had slammed doors in my face, who took me seriously, warts and all! Without such sons and daughters of encouragement, my story might have worked out quite differently.

Perhaps you’ve also had one or two Barnabases in your life. If so, that’s great, but I wonder if we looked around ourselves we might discover someone needing us to be their Barnabas. Think what by the grace of God that could mean for them.

Ken Stewart