I often wonder if people meeting us for the first time would soon realize that we are Christians because of the quality of our relationships, and the principles by which we live our lives. Rather, I very much fear that our Christian faith is confined to a rigid formalism and occasional Sunday worship, and that in the daily discourse of life, we are not much different from those who do not share our faith.
Throughout his life, St. Barnabas showed again and again that he was a genuine Christian. The apostles called him “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) because of the sublime spiritual qualities they saw in him. When the other apostles were skeptical of St. Paul’s conversion, it was the earnest advocacy of Barnabas that won them over. (9:26-27). He was chosen to encourage the new Christian church in Antioch because “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (11:24). His whole way of life made it very clear that he had been transformed by Christ.
In my own life, I knew such a man. He once walked six miles to return a nickel to a man when he discovered that he had unwittingly short-changed him. And when our parish church healed a division that had torn the community, he was elected by both factions to be the president of a newly united congregation. Although he had supported the point of view of one of the groups, everyone nonetheless believed in his sense of fairness, justice, and impartiality. After 6 years of service, he left a lasting legacy of Christian righteousness. Like St. Barnabas, he was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Although his circumstances could not have been humbler—he earned his livelihood by shining shoes—through simple faith he allowed God’s grace to transform him into an inspiration to his family, a valued treasure to his countless friends, and a true gift to the community in which he lived. Wherever he was, others knew that they were in the presence of a Christian. How different the world would be if that could also be said of all of us.