Reflection for St Barnabas the enabler.


‘A good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.’ Description of Barnabas in Acts 11:24.

‘Rescuing someone who continues to make poor choices is not called love. It’s called enabling. Stop enabling and refuse to be a safety net, so they can grow up.’ 

Reach Out Recovery.

For some time after the Covid pandemic, people were understandably afraid of close contact and gatherings where they thought they might still be at risk. In today’s Epistle it’s clear that, although he’d had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus, the early Christians were still afraid of Saul of Tarsus, who had persecuted them. In Acts 9:26, they doubt that he really has changed his mind and become a follower. Their fear is understandable and it’s Barnabas who convinces them that Saul really has converted to the emerging faith. Barnabas prepares the way for Saul’s acceptance and his later ministry, when he goes to look for Saul (Acts 11:25) and bring him to Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. He becomes known as the enabler or encourager, which is what the name Barnabas means. 

However, although the two men embark on their first missionary journey with Barnabas’ cousin John Mark to help them, they later have a disagreement about him. The argument is sharp – Paul seems to have had concerns about Mark deserting them in Pamphylia and perhaps Barnabas felt the need to support his family member. It means that they split up with Saul, now Paul, taking Silas to Syria and Barnabas going with Mark to Cyprus. Perhaps it’s a help to know that there were arguments between Christians then just as there are today, but what’s clear is that neither man allows their difference to prevent their outreach continuing. Both Paul and Barnabas enable the evangelism to continue and their separation actually means that the Gospel was then spread in two different directions because of the way they handled the situation. Would t’were so more often!

Today, ‘enabling’ can have a different meaning when used in addictive contexts. As Reach Out Recovery indicates, it’s possible to cover for someone in addiction in the mistaken belief that this is supportive whereas it may actually delay the facing of reality and possible recovery. Perhaps there are situations in our own circumstances where this has happened or a row has created division and, if so, take heart. Paul and Silas were commended by the church at Antioch with no commendation for Barnabas and Mark but perhaps Barnabas’ decision enabled a second chance for his cousin as Paul later wrote, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:11) 

As Mark was given a second chance perhaps we, or someone we know, deserve one too. If that was considered, would it be enabling as in the example of Barnabas the encourager or perhaps in the context of Reach Out Recovery? And in view of political events now unfolding: would the outcome apply to Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and all the other politicians involved or not?!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.