Thursday, June 11, 2015

Son of Encouragement

As we read in Acts 11, Barnabas grew into fruitful ministry. He was a missionary on his own as well as a companion of Saul/Paul. During a time of great persecution, when the Christian evangelists were only preaching to Jews for fear of arrest and imprisonment by the Romans, Barnabas was sent to preach and encourage a group of Hellenists (Greek converts to Judaism). Barnabas was the one who went and found Saul and brought him to Antioch, where they preached for more than a year and also where the term "Christian" was first used.
But I'm more interested in the beginning of his ministry. I've always heard of Barnabas as a "Son of Encouragement," and I've heard people label particularly positive, encouraging people as "a Barnabas." Back in Acts 4, as we read in today's lesson from the Daily Office, we hear that Barnabas wasn't always so named. Originally he was Joseph, but his name was changed to Barnabas because of his personality. He sold his land and brought the money to the apostles, committing all of his property to the shared cause of the church. And, it seems, he also brought his spirit of encouragement with him.

Encouragement is a gift. Some people have it. Others struggle with it. It's related to optimism, but it's the seeing of a half-full glass in someone else. Encouragement is a beautiful gift to share. Individuals who want others to feel the joy of doing something well or right find opportunities to share an encouraging word with them. They help others stay focused to persevere even in the face of setback.

There are encouragers in my parish, in my family, and in my other social networks. And they are good at what they do. And I am thankful for them. One of my prayers is that I would be a Barnabas--that I would care less about my own joy and more about the success of others. Let their joy be my joy. It's more fun to celebrate with someone else. It's more fun to be a Barnabas.

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