Companions and Sources of Consolation

During the season of Easter we have heard stories in the lectionary from the Acts of the Apostles about the experiences of those who first took the good news of the gospel out into the world. One of those early heroes, who has a feast day this week on Saturday, June 11, is Saint Barnabas. Many people don’t know much about him or even recognize his name but he plays an important role all the same.

Barnabas was a main companion for Paul in his work and helped defend the importance and necessity in welcoming Gentiles into the early Christian movement. His parents named him Joseph but the Bible consistently refers to him as Barnabas. He sold all of his land and gave the money to the apostles in Jerusalem as his first act in support of the church.

Barnabas was an apostle in his own right but is more notable for accompanying Paul in his work and being an encouragement for others. In fact, the name given him by his fellow apostles means “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement.” For his companions to give him this moniker gives us a good idea of his personality and caring presence.

There is something captivating in our current climate about an apostle whose presence and life of ministry earned him a name rooted in encouragement and consolation. Between social media and our political culture, we find ourselves surrounded by a society that values vitriol, insults, and quick cutting remarks. We confuse witticism with biting sarcasm and malicious cliches. “Us v. Them” is the ruling principle, or even “Me Against the World.” You only need read the comment section of viral social media posts to see how vicious people can be to a complete stranger.

However, there are Barnabas types out there as well. Amidst the harsh commentary, there are moments of light and beauty. Encouragers fulfill their calling by posting “Way to go!” or “Don’t listen to them! You’re beautiful!” or “Keep it up!” Some simple words from a pure heart can cut through the trash and anger to lift any who take the time to read them.

We are Christians. We are inheritors of the work of the first apostles. In my mind I hear the words of the old hymn “There is a Balm in Gilead:”

If you cannot preach like Peter,
if you cannot pray like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus,
who died to save us all.

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sinsick soul.

Not all of us have the calling or comfort to evangelize our neighbors so we might add to the song:

If you cannot preach like Peter,
If you cannot pray like Paul,
You can live a bit like Barnabas,
And console and encourage them all.

May we commit to the hearty and needed work of being like Barnabas by offering to one another and all we meet, online or in person, words of encouragement and consolation. And maybe a pat on the back or a light touch of the arm to let each other know we are in this together.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Terry Aiello says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and timely encouragement!


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