Encourage One Another

You will likely recognize the name of Jackie Robinson as the first African-American to play Major League baseball. In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced hatred nearly everywhere he traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the bases, ugly insults were written on cards and spoken from the opposing dugouts. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach.

During one game in Cincinnati, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak. To make matters worse, Robinson committed an error and stood at second base humiliated while the fans hurled insults at him. Another Dodger, a Southern white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called timeout. He walked from his position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds looking on, he put his arm around Robinson's shoulder. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

That reminds me of a similar story in the Bible. Saul was a most unlikely candidate for Christianity. I doubt if he was on anybody's soul-winning list. Except God's. The reason is that you would have been locked up or killed before you got through the first Bible study. The words Saul and persecution were synonymous. So, Saul had a bit of a problem when he became a Christian. Everybody was afraid to get close to him. The members of the Jerusalem church thought that Paul was pulling a fast one, that he was only pretending to be a disciple (verse 26).

After all, that was a perfect plan -- pretend to become a member of the church, get the names of all of the members, call the Sanhedrin and then take the whole bunch to prison. Sounds like a spy story, doesn't it? But, they weren't about to fall for that one! But Barnabas accepted him.

There are a couple of things about Barnabas that we need to imitate. First of all, he was a man who insisted on believing the best in others. When others suspected Saul of being a spy, Barnabas insisted on believing he was genuine and real. The world is largely divided into people who think the best of others and people who think the worst of others. "[Love] doesn't keep track of wrongs....never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up." (I Corinthians 13:5,7, GOD'S WORD).

Barnabas was also a person who didn't hold a man's past against him. It happens so often that whenever a man makes a mistake, he is forever condemned in our eyes. It is a wonderful characteristic of God that he doesn't hold our past sins against us. We, too, should never condemn a man just because he has failed in the past.

What a great example! We've all been there -- standing in need of someone to face our problems with us. And we have those around us who need the encouraging arm around the shoulder.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (Galatians 6:1-2)

Alan Smith alansmith.servant@gmail.com

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