The Barnabas Factor: Defending the Right to Be Different

We’ll never find and develop leaders for the future if we insist on judging what God likes by what we like.

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved. This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. ~ Acts 15:1, 2 

READING: Acts 15:1-29 

A fourth trait that set Barnabas apart was his willingness to defend those who did things differently – really differently. Twice he stepped forward to aggressively defend ministry to Gentiles. Frankly, I can’t imagine that Barnabas was all that comfortable with it. It must have struck him as strange that a large group of people wanted to follow the Jewish Messiah, yet were unwilling to become full-on Jews. It must have been disconcerting to attend an Antioch potluck filled with uncircumcised Christians eating pork sandwiches!

Yes, Jesus said new wine needs new wineskins, but how many of us really believe it – or realize how quickly our new wineskins become old wineskins? Looking back over the years, I’m saddened to realize how often I’ve seen a fledgling young leader marginalized simply because something about the way they looked, dressed, or approached ministry was uncomfortable to the pastors and leaders in charge.

More to the point, it’s amazing how often God used that rejection as the impetus to launch a new ministry (sometimes literally down the street) that quickly sucked all the youth, vitality, and future out of the very church that once so dismissively wrote off their new way of doing ministry as inappropriate or “unspiritual.”

We’ll never find and develop leaders for the future if we insist on judging what God likes by what we like. Barnabas knew better. He judged what God approved by what God blessed, not by his own personal comfort zone. 

Father, Help me to be a leader who assesses situations by what you approve and bless regardless of my personal feelings. Amen.

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