Have you ever felt like “the other guy?”
Have you ever felt like you were the sidekick to a bigger, more outstanding personality?
Saint Barnabas, whom we remember and celebrate on June 11th, in many ways is “the other guy” to a much more looming, dominant figure in the history of Christianity: Saint Paul. Imagine being in the shadow of none other than Paul, the second biggest name in the New Testament to Jesus himself!
The amazing thing about Barnabas’ story is that while he might seem to take second fiddle from our distance to the events of the New Testament, he certainly did not to the Christians in Jerusalem or Antioch, or to Paul himself.
It might be helpful to rewind back to when we first meet Barnabas in Acts 4. As it turns out, Saint Barnabas was not named Barnabas at all! Acts claims he was a man named Joseph from the island of Cyprus. While we don’t know why he left behind island living, we do know that he had a special role in the early Christian community. The Apostles—the first students of Jesus who then became leaders or bishops for the first Christians—gave him the special name Barnabas, which means son of encouragement.
One of the next things we know about Barnabas is truly profound, as we see that encouragement in action. When Saul, before he became Paul, arrived at the doorstep of the Jerusalem Christians, they did not welcome him in because they were afraid of him. That’s when the Son of Encouragement stepped up. Barnabas did what no one else would do, he brought Saul in before the Apostles and he vouched for him. He stood up for him when others were too afraid to do so.
When we think about the incredible ministry of the Apostle Paul and the legacy he left behind of planting churches around the Mediterranean and leaving us his letters in the New Testament, we must also remember “the other guy,” or better yet, the Son of Encouragement that had Paul’s back throughout his ministry.
Sometimes being “the other guy” is the most important role we can play. Sometimes, being a child of encouragement, providing support, love, and care for someone else’s ministry is the gift God is calling us to give. Sometimes, standing up for someone else is dangerous, and the bravest thing that we can do.
Right now the world is in turmoil from a global pandemic and the protests against police violence toward people of color. For many in the Church, this is the time we are called to be a child of encouragement, to stand beside others in a very different position of status than ourselves. And for a hurting world, we as the whole Church together can be a Body of Encouragement, calling all to walk the way of love that Jesus teaches us.
So never forget “the other guy” and never shy away from that position if you find yourself there. God may have you exactly where your gifts are needed.