Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”) . . . (Acts 4:36)
Growing up, some of my friends had nicknames; I did as well. My best friend at the time was called “Tin Man.” In the eighth grade, during recess, several of us were playing near the shop area. Someone picked up a small square of tin and tossed it at him. While it didn’t do any serious damage, it did graze his forehead and drew blood. Thankfully, no stitches were necessary. But from then on, he was known as Tin Man, a nickname that had a historical context.
The best way to differentiate the many Josephs in Judea was to prescribe each a nickname. The nickname “Barnabas” was appropriate for Joseph’s dealings with Saul (see Acts 9:27). When the apostles questioned Saul’s conversion, Barnabas encouraged them to take a second look. They took a chance on him, and the rest is history. Saul became Paul and helped the early church change its world. Without Barnabas’ encouragement, it would never have happened. But Barnabas had a history of inspiring others before Paul entered the scene, as earlier passages in Acts show. Barnabas’ history of encouragement verified that the nickname was deserved.
While our nickname might not be Barnabas, encouragement should be one of the first characteristics that come to mind when our name is called. For Barnabas, it came naturally. It should be natural for us to encourage others also.
Determine to be an encouragement to others.
Roland E. Cavanaugh is a former pastor and current chaplain of Providence Place Senior Health and Rehabilitation (NC). He enjoys reading, writing, and nature.
© 2022 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.