The Barnabas Factor: Quickness to Forgive

May we see people through the lens of what God is doing in their life now, rather than through the lens of the past.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. ~ Acts 11:25 

READING: Acts 11:19-26 

The second thing that strikes us about Barnabas is his readiness to forgive. The next time he shows up in the Book of Acts, he’s sponsoring and supporting the ministry of a former arch enemy. It’s no stretch to assume that Paul (Saul) had previously jailed and persecuted some of Barnabas’close friends. Saul clearly collaborated in the death of Stephen. That’s a lot to get over. Yet Barnabas was willing to look past what Paul had done to see what God was doing. It allowed him to see potential where everyone else saw only past sins. What God forgave, Barnabas forgave – quickly.

Ironically, years later, after John Mark deserted the team, Paul was unwilling to give him the same kind of second chance that Barnabas had offered to Paul. Paul said, “No way,” and parted ways from Barnabas. Barnabas forgave John Mark and together they set sail for Cypress (Acts 15:35 – 41).

Yet, on this point, time seems to have vindicated Barnabas, not Paul. Paul eventually commended John Mark for his usefulness for ministry (II Tim. 4:11). And far more importantly, God chose to use John Mark to write the Gospel of Mark – a pretty prestigious assignment. Looks like Barnabas made the right choice to quickly give him a second chance.

Being quick to forgive doesn’t mean ignoring sin. It doesn’t mean someone gets a platform in the immediate backwash of sin and repentance. But it does mean seeing people through the lens of what God is doing in their life now, rather than through the lens of whatever they may have done in the past. 

Father, Help me to reflect your love and forgiveness to others and not to hold a person’s past sins against them. Amen. 

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