The inspiration of the Bible provides lessons for life in sometimes unexpected ways. Years ago I was a guest teacher at a church camp. My assigned topic was Barnabas.
Under an open air pavilion, teenagers sat around, and on, picnic tables. The sun was warm and the slight breeze made for a beautiful morning as I set the background for our study in Acts. The book of Acts is filled with passion and principles for living as seen in the lives of men and women long gone but whose deeds continue to teach us how to live.
After noting several great qualities about Barnabas, we went to Acts 9, where Barnabas befriends Saul for the first time. This Levite from Cyprus had become a trusted friend of the apostles of Christ. When the rest of the church, and apostles, in Jerusalem would have nothing to do with Saul, it is Barnabas who comes to help Saul, taking him before the apostles to explain Saul’s conversion.
It was in that setting that I asked a series of real life questions for the teens to reflect on. “Have you ever felt like an outsider? Have you ever sat down with a group of people only to have them move away from you? Have you ever felt alone, even while in a group of people?” I intended for the questions to be private reflection on their own experiences before I made applications. However, one of the young men in the class decided to answer. He said, “Yeah, I have. Right here at this camp!” Awkward silence followed. Now a little closer to home than I expected, I asked, “How did that make you feel?” And he responded, “Not very good.” Right.
In camps, in schools, in gyms, on playgrounds - - and in churches - - people want to fit in, to find friends and be liked. And in all of those places, others turn away, run away or make it clear in various ways, “you are not welcome here.” And it feels... not very good.
Not all of us are so well adjusted and comfortable with ourselves that we can see beyond ourselves to the needs of others. Not all of us will reach outside of our comfortable circle to someone who is on the outside looking in. But thankfully in many people the phenomenal spirit of Barnabas is alive and well. Like a gift from God, they comfort us, reach out to us, encourage us, and bring us into their circle. Their message is loud and clear, “I have room for you in my life. You are welcome here.” I thank God for the life example of Barnabas, and for those I have known in real life who act like him.
- Tim Orbison