19 Apr 2016
Barnabas was sent to Antioch, and “when he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all.” And I wonder: What did he see there in Antioch? What did the “grace of God” look like? Maybe it was simply that Jewish and Greek converts were living as friends and not enemies. Maybe Barnabas saw they were taking Jesus’ commandments to heart, and that they were actually loving God, and loving their neighbors.
Whatever it was that Barnabas saw there in Antioch, I wonder—if he were to visit us: Would he see the “grace of God” here and also rejoice and encourage us? Well, as far as “seeing the grace of God” goes, we would certainly hope that Barnabas could see the Holy Spirit at work among us. Regardless, we could say with fair certainty that Barnabas would encourage us.
After all, the name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” He had a reputation for picking up on the smallest presence of God in people, and then encouraging them to be even more faithful to the Lord. And, in that way, he is very much a reflection of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Now, in the 1st Century, Jews and Greeks living and worshipping as friends and neighbors was a big deal. Today, though, it isn’t; it’s pretty usual to see Christians of different backgrounds coming together. But, as common as everyday life and love are for us Christians today, they’re still pretty remarkable.
And maybe that’s all Barnabas saw when he arrived at Antioch. Maybe he just saw men and women actually living their everyday lives as real Christians: loving God and loving their neighbors. It may not seem like much, but really, it’s everything. And for all those times we have loved God and others—even imperfectly, Christ says, “You’re doing well, my brother, my sister . . . keep it up! As the Father and I are one, so I am with you."
And that’s some pretty encouraging words.