Barnabas of Cyprus: Kindness in action

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Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36-37

“It is well, therefore, that he who has learned the judgments of the Lord, as many as have been written, should walk in them. For he who keepeth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works. On this account there will be a resurrection, on this account a retribution.

I beseech you who are superiors, if you will receive any counsel of my goodwill, have among yourselves those to whom you may show kindness; do not forsake them. For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with the evil. The Lord is near and His reward. Again, and yet again, I beseech you: be good lawgivers to one another, continue faithful counsellors of one another, take away from among you all hypocrisy.

And may God who ruleth over all the world, give to you wisdom, intelligence, understanding, knowledge of His judgments with patience. And be ye taught of God, inquiring diligently what the Lord asks from you; and do it that ye may be safe in the day of judgment. And if you have any remembrance of what is good, be mindful of me, meditating on these things, in order that both my desire and watchfulness may result in some good,

I beseech you, entreating this as a favor. While yet you are in this fair vessel, do not fail any one of these things, but unceasingly seek after them, and fulfill every commandment; for these are worthy. Wherefore I have been the more earnest to write to you as my ability served, that I might cheer you. Farewell, ye children of love and peace. The Lord of glory and of all grace be with your spirit. Amen.”

Barnabas of Cyprus in Epistle of Barnabas, 21, in Writings of the Apostolic Fathers: Mathetes, Polycarp, Barnabas, and Papias, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Veritatis Spendor Publications, 2014) 133-134

The Epistle of Barnabas is ascribed to the Barnabas of Cyprus who is mentioned in today’s biblical text. He is the co-worker of the Apostle Paul who ministered to the Gentiles. The Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas were influential apostolic fathers and included in the Codex Sinaiticus, which is the oldest existing copy of the New Testament (c. fourth century). These ancient documents provide clues to early church thinking on living out the Christian life, though they were not excluded from the biblical canon by the early church councils.

Kindness for Barnabas, the son of encouragement, is what we get to extend to those we serve. It’s beautiful behavior that promises reward. How do we learn it? Barnabas would say to inquire “diligently what the Lord asks from you.” What do you think God desires for you today? What impact could it have? Ancient sources like Hippolytus of Rome tell us about Barnabas is that he numbered among the seventy in Luke 10:1-12. Then, numerous texts in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles records his kindness in action as central to early church mission. What about yours?

Your kindness may not change the entire world, but it just might change the world for those you serve today. With Barnabas, the encourager, I want to cheer you on!