When Paul was still calling himself Saul, and before he met Jesus, he was a hater of Christians and an accomplice to murder. One of the most famous lines in his biography is found at the end of Stephen’s stoning in Acts 8:1 where it reads that Paul approved of that brutal killing. Although it doesn’t appear that he participated directly in the stoning, he was willing to let it happen. He even guarded the clothes of the killers (Acts 7:58). Paul had made it his life’s goal to hunt down Christians and bring them to imprisonment (Acts 8:3) He was merciless in that ambition ( Acts 9:1-2). And his reputation preceded him in such a way that it struck fear in the hearts of those who followed Jesus (Acts 9:13-14, Acts 9:26).
After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his whole view of life changed. His conversion compelled him to meet with the apostles. They were understandably afraid of him, and didn’t believe that he was sincere. However, a good man named Barnabas befriended Paul, and intervened on his behalf before the apostles. This intervention led to Paul’s acceptance by the church as a Christian (Acts 9:26-31). Paul went on to write most of the New Testament, and is responsible for a significant portion of the geographic expansion of Christendom. Paul’s influence across both space and time is profound. The church owes much to his labors. But Paul’s influence exists, in part, because one man befriended an outsider and helped unite him with the rest of the fold.
Barnabas is an example of a consistent thread throughout the bible. It is a thread of community. There is an expectation among God’s people that we love others, and that we befriend them for the purpose of expanding God’s kingdom. This expectation does not limit us to pursue friendships with those who appear safe, but specifically calls us to pursue people who may be alien to our own sphere, and perhaps even lowly (Romans 12:14-21). Barnabas recognized the spirit of God on the face of Paul and acted on that apprehension. The simple act of Barnabas changed the world.
Are you looking for simple acts and relationships that might change the world? What chain reaction can you start by sharing the love of God in your community?