To me, one of the most interesting people in the Bible is Barnabas. What kind of person was he that he was best known for encouraging people? Was he just a cheerleader for everyone, or was there more to the story?
It would be great if we could raise children who were encouragers like Barnabas. But what exactly did Barnabas do that we could also teach our kids?
I went back and read everything in the Bible I could find about Barnabas. Barnabas was much, much more than the cheerleader we somehow picture. Here is what I found and how it could translate to skills we teach our own children:
- Barnabas wasn’t afraid to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when others were. (Acts 9:26-27). After Paul’s conversion, Paul eventually made it to Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples. They refused to meet with him for fear it was a trick to find them and arrest or kill them. Barnabas took Paul and brought him to the disciples, telling them of Paul’s conversion and how he had been preaching about Jesus. We need to teach our children to be willing to give people second chances.
- In that same passage, we learn Barnabas was willing to be the conduit to enable things to happen that needed to happen. Barnabas knew God would want Paul and the disciples to work together in spreading the Gospel. Barnabas could see Paul and the disciples were not able to make the connection on their own. He was willing to take a chance and do what was necessary to help bring Christians together to support one another. We need to teach our children to help other Christians find their place in the Church.
- Barnabas rejoiced when people became Christians and helped them grow. (Acts 11:22-24). He didn’t just pat new Christians on the back and go on his way. Barnabas stayed and encouraged them to stay resolute about their decision and their faith. We need to teach our children our responsibility to people doesn’t end with their baptism. They need to rejoice in the grace new Christians receive and help mentor them to grow in the faith.
- Barnabas’ encouragement and mentoring were accepted by Christians because he had a reputation for being a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. (Acts 11:22-24). We need to teach our children they will be more effective at encouraging others to stay faithful, if they themselves are seen as good, faithful and full of the Holy Spirit.
- Barnabas went for help when the job was too big for one person. When Barnabas saw everything that was happening in Antioch, he actually went to Tarsus, found Paul and brought him back to Antioch to help. Barnabas did not have an ego, where he had to be “the man” in Antioch. He saw he needed help and was humble enough (and willing to make an effort) to ask for help. We need to teach our children to ask for help from other Christians. They should be willing to travel or do what is necessary to get the help the Christians they are working with need.
- Barnabas was willing to go where God sent him. (Acts 13:2). We don’t know much about Barnabas’ personal life. It does appear though, that whenever Barnabas was called by God to go, teach and encourage, he went. Now we are not sure how the Holy Spirit exactly communicated to them in this passage, but we know today often God makes it pretty clear what He wants us to do in His Kingdom. We need to teach our children how to see when God is calling them to join Him in His work and to be willing to do whatever needs to be done.
- Barnabas was willing to share his faith everywhere he went. (Acts) From all indications, Barnabas enthusiastically shared the good news of Jesus with everyone he could. We see no signs, that he would only preach to “certain” people. We need to teach our children the good news about Jesus is for everyone. They need to happily share the good news with everyone they can.
- Barnabas was humble. (Acts 14:12–15) Zeus and Hermes were the “rock stars” of the day. (They were fictitious gods, but would have been treated like rock stars had they suddenly appeared.) It could have been very tempting for Barnabas and Paul to accept the hero worship and everything that would have come with it. Instead, they were visibly upset and corrected the misconception immediately. We need to teach our children to be humble, even if people try to make them into “rock star” Christians.
- Barnabas did not let a “sharp” disagreement with Paul destroy his ministry for God, nor did he attempt to destroy Paul’s. (Acts 15:36-39) As far as we know, this disagreement only caused them to take different people and go in different directions. There is no indication Paul or Barnabas wasted any time or energy on trying to undermine the other’s ministry. We need to teach our children that disagreements are a part of life. In non-faith matters, people can”agree to disagree” and still be effective in ministry. There is no need to attempt to”destroy” people with whom you have a difference of opinion. (Please note though that both men did not hesitate to speak out very strongly against false teachings and false teachers. They were willing to bring down so-called ministries that were not faithful to God’s Word.)
As you can see, there is a lot more to raising your child to be like Barnabas than just encouraging her to cheer for others. Take the extra time to teach your child all of the good habits that were a part of the encouragement ministry of Barnabas. You may just be surprised how God uses your child in the future.