All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles. Acts 4:32-37 (NLT)
In a perfect world…is how many depressing or cynical sentences begin.
In a perfect world…there would be no diseases, poverty or crime.
In a perfect world…there would be no child abuse.
In a perfect world…everyone could take a turn at being president.
The reason we say the tenor of those statements is depressed, or cynical, is because we immediately recognize there is never going to be a time when they are more than wishful thinking; utopia is out of reach; Camelot was a brief moment, unsustainable!
The “Camelot moment” of the church followed Pentecost for a brief moment. The church grew exponentially, and so did unity and radical generosity.
It aint so lately!
Of the volumes of characterizations that could be written or spoken about the church, this is our Age of Camelot is not one. You can’t begin to describe the church today as united in heart and mind…shar[ing] everything they ha[ve].(Acts 4:32)
The church today stands in some pretty dire need of encouragement to remember her roots.
Joseph was such an encouraging sort that they nicknamed him Barnabas, and he encouraged people with bold actions. Saul (who became Paul) persecuted the church. After meeting Jesus face to face, he came to the church leaders and wanted to join in. Everyone wanted to string him up, flog him and give him a dose of his own persecution. Barnabas stood in the gap and encouraged the leaders to give him a chance.
Later, when Paul and Barnabas went on a road trip visiting the churches, they took John Mark with them, but Mark got cold feet after a short time and went home. As they planned a second journey to encourage the churches, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along; Paul said are you joking…no way! He’s a deserter; forget it!
Barnabas wanted Paul to remember his roots…how a persecuter (much like a deserter) was despised. But Paul wouldn’t be persuaded, so Barnabas took John Mark and went on a different route. Barnabas found a way to encourage everyone he encountered.
If I had to characterize Barnabas by choosing an animal, I’d say he was a mother walrus. A walrus mother knows her cub needs a little lift at times, and that was Barnabas’ specialty – the word or deed done at the right time and in the right spirit/way to bring courage back.
This is the need of the church today – courage to remember our despised roots – not the glory days of bold mission advance, or success stories of money rasied, or buildings built. We need to remember the Barnabas effect of a bloodstained cross caused by our sin. We were as despicable as any enemy or deserter, and God gave His Son for us.
Overwhelming, isn’t it? At least it should be; it should lead us to such great gratitude that nothing should stand in our way of being like that.
It cost Barnabas plenty to be an encouragement to the church…more than the money he got for selling his property so others could eat. At times the cost was lonely leadership; it isn’t easy when you stand up for despised ones like Peter and John Mark.
But think how much poorer the record of the church would have been without Paul and Mark’s ministry? We needed Barnabas; we need him more now than ever!
In a perfect world…the church would be full of Barnabas Christians.
Well, at least it would be better off if the ONE Christian I have any control over was like that. We can all be Barnabas if we choose!