Thursday 11 June 2009

Bible Book:

"Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were brought to the Lord." (v.24)

Acts 11:19-30 Thursday 11 June 2009


Religious people can often place boundaries around their beliefsabout God: about what God does and doesn't do, and about what Godwants and doesn't want.

The first disciples, escaping persecution in Jerusalem, were noexception. They assumed the good news of Jesus (the gospel) was forthe Jewish people alone and so they preached it only to theirfellow Jews. Even when these disciples reached Antioch, the thirdlargest city in the Roman Empire, they focused their preachingpurely upon the Jewish population. However, men from Cyprus andCyrene had also become 'followers of the Way' (the name given tothe earliest Christians in the book of Acts - eg Acts 9:2). Theyspoke intentionally to those who were not Jewish, and so believersin Jerusalem sent Barnabas to find out what was going on. Barnabaswas able to see that the grace of God was working beyond the Jewishcommunity, and that these non-Jewish followers were truebelievers.

But how was Barnabas able to see this when others couldn't? How washe able to think 'out of the box' in this way? Luke, the author ofActs, describes him as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and offaith". It seems that this is synonymous with this ability to seebeyond the religious boundaries others had constructed.

Not only did Barnabas support this new 'Gentile' (non-Jewish)ministry, he also recognised that Paul was called by God tocommunicate across cultural and religious boundaries. Others wereclearly uncomfortable with Paul, but Barnabas discerns God's callin him and seeks to bring him in acceptance by others inleadership.

Being faithful to Christ's call to follow him 'on the Way' requiresus to be open to the Spirit's movement, to be open to change andgrowth, and to challenge long held assumptions about religiousboundaries. It involves stepping out of our comfort zones, seeingmore than simply that those who believe 'just like me' are the oneswho are right. Such action can lead us into encountering andsharing faith stories with people of no religious faith and ofother faiths. God is at work in these people in ways that areoutside the formal religious boundaries that seem to be set bytradition. However it is only when we reach out that we can be in aposition like Barnabas - and to be amazed at the grace andgenerosity of God already at work in others.

To Ponder

How far are you willing to see what God is doingoutside your own 'religious box'?

Are you aware of what your preconceptions are?How could you let the Spirit of Jesus challenge them and changeyou?

What would you need to do in your life so thatothers might judge you as "full of the Holy Spirit and faith"?

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