Most churches are excited to get a new member.
Not the Jerusalem church, at least when a certain new Christian wanted to join their fellowship. They thought it was a ruse he had created to hurt them, and they were scared.
And most of us would’ve had the same attitude they did, because the one wanting to work with the Christians in Jerusalem wasn’t just any young man.
His name was Saul, and as you probably remember he had spent much of his adult life trying to imprison and execute as many Christians as possible. The church knew him as their fiercest enemy.
But here’s my favorite part of the story: Barnabas, one of our favorite Bible characters, stepped up, put his arm around Saul, and vouched for him before the church.
He’s one of us. He’s real. His faith is genuine. We need to accept him.
And they did.
Here’s the way Luke tells the story:
And when [Saul] 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 and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied (Acts 9:26-31).
Don’t you love Barnabas?
He was the kind of man who saw the good in people, recognized their potential, thought of what they could become.
And he had seen something in this young man that made him believe in him.
The church’s reaction to Barnabas’ vote of confidence is amazing: “So [Saul] went in and out among them at Jerusalem, . . .”
In other words, if Barnabas says he’s okay, then he’s okay. No other evidence was needed.
I want to be like that, don’t you? I want to be more like Barnabas, who believes in people and sees their potential, not their past. I want to be someone who helps new Christians develop confidence to use their abilities to serve the Lord.
Where’s the Saul in your congregation? Where’s the person who needs you to put your arm around him and tell him you believe in him? Where’s the one who needs you to trust her, to love her, to see her potential?
The church could use a lot more folks like Barnabas, don’t you think?
There might be a young Saul around us with unlimited potential waiting to be tapped.
Let’s be his Barnabas.