When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer!—Acts 9:26
When Saul left Damascus, he returned to Jerusalem, where he had presided over the martyrdom of Stephen. Did he receive a hero’s welcome from his fellow believers? Did they hear he had become a believer and say, “The notorious Christian-killer, Saul, is one of us now. Let’s welcome him”?
No. They didn’t even believe he had been converted.
I wonder how many this is true of today. They come to Christ and attend church for the first time, and no one welcomes them. Maybe they get a cold shoulder from someone. Maybe they get a mean look. Maybe they wore the wrong T-shirt with the wrong slogan that day.
Come on. Can we be patient with people? Can we recognize that when someone is a new believer, they will be a little rough around the edges? What are we are expecting? I wonder if we have people like Saul who come into our churches and never make that transition.
In Saul’s life, that is where Barnabas came in. (By the way, the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement”). “Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus” (Acts 9:27).
Apparently Barnabas had some credibility with the apostles, because they seemed to accept what he had to say. He put it all on the line and backed Saul’s story because it was true.
We need more people like Barnabas today—people who know how to lift someone up, people who know how to comfort a person and motivate a person. That is what Barnabas did for Saul. And that is what we need to do as well.