Several years ago, a 30-something new believer attended our worship service. He had long, multicolored, spiked hair. He was dressed in dark clothes and had multiple piercings and tattoos. It was a good thing that only the pastors knew he had AIDS. Some people openly gaped and others just gave him that "It's good to see you in church, but please don't sit next to me" smile and stare. Yet, during the greeting time, there were some who went out of their way to welcome and accept him. They were a wellspring of encouragement to one who had experienced his share of rejection among "Christian" people.
Barnabas was a wellspring of encouragement to Saul, a man who had been rejected because of his past (Acts 9). When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, three years after his conversion, many disciples were afraid of him and doubted his transformation (v.26). For Saul had previously been a vicious persecutor of Christians. But Barnabas, a Jewish convert, saw God's work of grace in Saul's life and became a bridge between him and the apostles (v.27). Saul needed someone to come alongside, encourage, teach, and introduce him to other believers. Barnabas was that bridge and source of encouragement. As a result, Saul was brought into deeper fellowship with the disciples in Jerusalem and was able to preach the gospel freely and boldly there (v.28).
Becoming a bridge and source of encouragement to those who have a sordid past, but whose lives have been changed by God's grace, is risky. Yet, we are called, like Barnabas, to take that risk and make them feel welcomed and valued. God gave His own Son to welcome us into His family. We should be willing to give sacrificially as we encourage and welcome others. , Marvin Williams, Our Daily Journey
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