I don’t think I would have enjoyed having the Apostle Paul for a friend. Does that sound wrong in some way? I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s true. Paul seemed to be the kind of guy who was too intense for me. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that Paul is probably the most influential Christian who has ever set foot on planet earth. I look forward to meeting him one day in heaven.
But to have lived with him down here? I’m just not sure. Thank God for the Apostle Paul type Christians in the church today. They’re the prophetic, strong, on-mission types who get a lot done and motivate others to do the same.
But as far as somebody I’d want to hang around with goes, I’d pick Barnabas instead. When Paul first became a Christian, those in the early church had their doubts about the reality of his conversion and wanted to keep their distance from him. It was Barnabas who brought him in and convinced them to accept him. (See Acts 9:27)
Once Paul and Barnabas went on a mission trip with young John Mark. (See Acts 12) After awhile John Mark decided that he was ready to go home, so he did. Later, when Paul and Barnabas were going to return to the places they had visited, John Mark wanted to go. The Apostle Paul wouldn’t hear of it. After all, the boy had abandoned them earlier.
Barnabas, on the other hand, had a different viewpoint. He apparently felt that everybody deserves another chance and insisted that John go with them. Paul and Barnabas couldn’t agree on the matter, so they separated. Paul took off in one direction with Silas and Barnabas in the other with John Mark. (See Acts 15:39)
The name “Barnabas” means “the son of comfort.” He lived up to his name, demonstrating a comforting, encouraging way toward John Mark. My guess is that John never forgot how Barnabas treated him. I suspect that by his tenderness, Barnabas made a friend for life in that situation.
Sometimes Christians think that we all need to be like the Apostle Paul – strong, determined, trail-blazers in expanding the kingdom. The church does need folks like that, but don’t minimize the powerful effect of the Barnabas type Christians in the church.
You might start churches, like Paul did, or you might touch somebody who turned aside like Barnabas did. Don’t fall into the error of thinking that you have to act outside your basic personality and temperament type. God can use you with the personality you have right now, without changing anything about that aspect of your makeup.
Do you relate to Paul’s approach to life? Then go for it. But don’t be too harsh on those who are more comfortable with the Barnabas approach. The Pauls of the church may reach cities, but the Barnabases will impact lives too, one person at a time.