Christian Living

When Not To Be A Barnabas

September 4, 2013


When Not To Be A Barnabas

arrowupThe Church needs more people like Barnabas – more “sons of encouragement” (cf. Acts 4:36). We need more people who, like Barnabas, are self-sacrificing (cf. Acts 4:37), are willing to stand up for their brethren (cf. Acts 9:26-27), are encouraging (cf. Acts 11:22-24), and are able to always see the goodness in people (cf. Acts 15:37-39).

You can always spot a Barnabas because they’re always trying to bring out the best in people, they work hard, they don’t need to be praised for their efforts, and they always want peace.

We need more Barnabases in the Church.

But modern-day Barnabases need to learn from his mistake. Barnabas was so eager to please everyone that he, at least once, compromised his convictions.

To make a long story short, Barnabas wanted to satisfy the Judaizers so much that he was willing to withdraw table fellowship from Gentile-Christian converts (Gal. 2:11-14). It seems he separated himself from the very people he was ministering to so enthusiastically, just to try to make everyone happy.

The point is, sometimes it isn’t possible to make everyone happy without seriously compromising the truth.

There comes a time when we cannot support or embrace someone because of their practice of error. We cannot give people the ‘everything-is-going-to-be-okay’ hug when they are teaching or doing things which contradict the perfect gospel of Christ. The fact of the matter is this: everything isn’t going to be okay so long as they aren’t “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7).

Sometimes Barnabases need to be more like Paul in recognizing sin as “sin” (Gal. 2:11, 14). Sometimes people are simply wrong, and Christians cannot wink at error or sin.

Let’s practically illustrate this point:

  • How many times do preachers avoid controversial issues because they don’t want to upset anyone?
  • How many times do elders avoid protecting the Bride of Christ because they’re afraid someone might leave? 
  • How many times do members allow sister So-n-So to gossip because they don’t want to anger her by asking her to stop? 
  • How many times do spouses sweep sin under the rug because they want to ‘preserve the peace’ in their home?
  • How many times do parents make compromises so their children can ‘fit in’ with other children?
  • How many times do teens compromise on what is righteous recreation because they don’t want to lose the influence they have on their friends?

Like Barnabas, we need to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). But Jesus doesn’t want us to attempt to build up the church at the expense of holiness. When we do that, we’re not actually building up the church – we’re tearing it down.

Question: Where do you draw the line between encouraging people and encouraging their sin?

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He and his wife Hannah have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series: Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation.
  1. H. Andrews

    Ben, This post alone is an act of Barnabas-like encouragement. It is comforting to know that there are young ministers who are out there and who are willing to tell it like it is. I'm proud to call you a brother. So many times we have ministers, elders, youth, and parents who are willing to compromise the truth in order to "hate the sin but love the sinner". While I completely agree with that statement, I fear that all too often we think encouraging people means that we have to overlook everything that they do. We are called to love people in the Spirit and in the Truth. Elderships as well as everyone else must be prepared to encourage hurt people to accept the Truth, and we must do it in a loving way. It's the heart of the matter. -Hill

  2. Butch Adams

    Ben, Having served as an elder in a previous congregation, I have waffled on a decision or two that was going to have an impact on the Lord's church. What I eventually found was that, while our fears of someone leaving or being offended might come true, the result is usually positive for the congregation in the long run. I am convinced this is one way God prunes fruitless branches. Great post, great insight! Butch

  3. Mike

    Excellent study, Ben.

  4. Kat

    Wow is your timing providential....I have been struggling with this very subject...thanks for the reminder that the right thing to do, tough as that may be, IS the right thing to do!!!

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