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A 21st-century thank-you note to Barnabas

From the April 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Dear Barnabas

Today, as I was considering your amazing contribution to our Cause, I just couldn’t help but stop for a while to give gratitude. First, thank you for your incredibly generous financial support. I’ve learned that after Jesus’ ascension, you sold your farm and gave all of the proceeds to support his disciples so that their work could continue. In the midst of a spiritual revolution, it is often difficult to grasp the magnitude of the impact a great movement will have on mankind. Thank you for having the necessary spiritual vision for the tremendous work to be accomplished and for your eager and fearless willingness to contribute. Clearly, there was nothing more important to you than furthering the work of spreading the message of the healing Christ to humanity.

Not only did you have a generous pocketbook, you had a generous heart. A few years after Saul had his experience on the road to Damascus and then his eye-opening healing with Ananias, he enthusiastically went to the disciples in Jerusalem to offer himself as a ready worker and to further his understanding of Jesus’ teachings. However, as you know, the disciples were still afraid, and probably resentful, of Saul, or Paul, and so were resistant. After all, he had persecuted the disciples’ loved colleagues. But, true to the name the disciples gave you—Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” (I understand your given name was Joseph)—you, practicing the refined spiritual skill of expressing mercy, did not hold this promising young man to a past record. 

You, with sweet benevolence, were willing to accept the transforming power of the Christ. It appears as though your open heart enabled you to forgive Paul, accept Jesus’ teachings of the new birth, recognize Paul’s spiritual potential, support his spiritual growth, take him to the disciples, and encourage them to embrace him as a new man with a clean slate. I think you were willing to behold him in his true spiritual selfhood, as the image of Love—pure and innocent. You presented him to the disciples, in essence saying: “This is a changed man. Believe him, for he is ready to help us!” And help us he did! We all must thank you for your wisdom and your efforts made to mentor this talented, passionate young man whose energies would eventually revolutionize global history.

We are the blessed beneficiaries of Barnabas’s devotion.

Thank you also for the generous giving of your time. For some of us, time is a precious resource and sometimes one of the most difficult to sacrifice. You, however, were willing to give everything you had—prayer, support, money, time, and more. Working in Antioch, where the fledgling church was growing, you encouraged Paul to join you in spiritually educating the Gentiles. You, with your out-of-the-box bigheartedness, must have known that the Gentiles had a God-given right to hear divine Love’s healing message. It was there that the name Christian was first given. It’s a good name, and it has stuck—for almost 2,000 years.

Thank you for your courageous and generous commitment. Your goals must have been far different from those of your family and friends. Clearly, putting aside social and personal interests, you were willing to be at Paul’s side on his initial travels, companioning him and supporting him through treacherous journeys to promote the good news of Christianity, challenging the carnal mind and proclaiming a radical healing message: “There is no power but of God,” as Paul put it (Romans 13:1). In view of what we understand today, I think that what underpinned your message was that since God, Spirit, is the cause and condition of all life, the sickness and problems that individuals feel bound by have no power to withstand the might of omnipotent God.

With abundant, Spirit-given stamina and energy, you walked hundreds of miles, slept in strange beds, ate strange food, endured great hardships, and were tormented, falsely accused, misunderstood. You put your life at risk many times for others to hear the Word of Truth and feel the comfort and healing it brings. It was neither comfortable nor convenient. Yet still, you healed. Many signs and wonders were done by Paul’s hands and yours.

And finally, thank you for your generous patience with your fellow workers. Once again, you were found mentoring, encouraging, and seeing the potential of another young student—your cousin, John Mark. But after John Mark had begun traveling with you and Paul, partway through the trip, he left. Maybe he was concerned about or unsure of the next parts of the journey. But did you give up on him? Did you lose your vision for him? No. You continued to work with him, and it is later reported that he became a productive and stalwart worker. 

From what I’ve read, it sounds as though you were a no-holds-barred, unreservedly-leaving-it-all-out-on-the-field kind of guy. Collectively, you, the disciples, Paul, and so many unsung heroes continued to turn the world and its concept of reality upside down. You might be interested to know that about eighteen hundred years later, a woman named Mary Baker Eddy actually discovered the divine Science underlying Jesus’ teachings—the truth of God and His creation—which reinstated the healing practice of Jesus that you and your colleagues followed, enabling Christian disciples today to heal through the power of the Christ, Truth. The revolution goes on!

We are the blessed beneficiaries of your devotion. It has been said: “Paul left the footprints on the pages of history, but nobody knows how much Barnabas contributed to the spirit and strength that kept those feet moving” (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, p. 168). And as our needed work continues, your example inspires us to give radically and live radically. The Cause that Christ Jesus began requires your kind of dedication, devotion, and commitment today.

The truth that Jesus taught and the Science Mrs. Eddy discovered, which undergirded his teachings, is the truth for this age. It is our salvation. Like you, dear Barnabas, we are still pioneering. We must pray to have vision, generosity, and fortitude like you had! You remind us to look for the potential in each other, to mentor the young students, and to have patience with our fellow church members. And you have shown us how one life, through a one-day-at-a-time, faithful, steady commitment, can have a ripple effect that swells into a loud and dramatic difference. This is what we can do, too! Oh, if only you knew what a difference you made!

With an appreciation as big and deep as your life, Barnabas, we, your fellow workers in Christ, thank you.

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