Barnabas and Saul

I was reminded this week of an interesting day in my life several years ago.

Early one morning, I was checking my blackberry and saw an email from a senior Navy official (one of my boss’ boss’ bosses). That month I was on a team planning an event being hosted by the sender; and, apparently, the sender was having a bad morning. The second or third line of their very caustic email (sent to 30 or 40 people) went something like “And, tell Stein she is not in charge!” I knew exactly why he was irritated and I knew that I had done nothing wrong. But, I realized that most of those reading the email were: 1) elated that their name was not “Stein”, and 2) positive that I must be a power grabbing idiot.

The email made me smile at first because it was so very, very silly. I had done nothing to merit his anger. But, the blast sent so publicly and so personally did sting and embarrass me. I knew that I was never going to be popular with the email sender. I rationalized that if embarrassing me that morning by email kept someone else’s career intact, so be it.

I was confident of my own position because I worked for an amazing leader. Admiral Gary Jones (my boss) knew of my actions and he trusted me. I could rest easy because I knew that everything between my boss and me was fine.

What surprised me was seeing a quick reply email, sent to the same recipients who had gotten the first communiqué. It was from Admiral Jones.

In a humorous and gentle way, my boss defended me and explained why targeting me was not appropriate. I realized at once that he didn’t need to do what he had just done. Noting the error of the senior official couldn’t help him in any possible way.

And, then my phone rang; it was Admiral Jones. He started the conversation with “You aren’t going to quit on me, are you?” I assured him that I was fine and we laughed together. As we ended the call, I could not believe that not only had he defended me, but that he had placed the call personally; he wanted to make sure that I knew that everything was OK. What leadership!

This week, our Wednesday class talked about another incident of one man defending another.

There was a man named Joseph who had a nickname, “Barnabas.” Barnabas means “comforter” or “encourager.” What a great name to be given by friends.

And, Barnabas knew about a man named Saul.

Saul had been accused of wrong doing. Whoops, my word order is wrong – Saul had been doing wrong. He was the head of a church-sanctioned program of dragging men and women out of their homes, into the street and executing them on the spot, all in the name of religion.

But, Saul had a life changing encounter and he saw himself as he was – a sinner. He recognized the horrors that he had done and he grieved and he repented. In fact, he left his home country for three years to repent and to find a new way of life; he changed his thinking and his priorities. When Saul returned to his homeland, a changed man, he wanted to share his new life of love with others.

Not surprisingly, people were afraid of him. They were not sure that he had really changed. And, even if he had changed, they were not sure that they wanted to be associated with him. That’s when Saul met Barnabas.

Unfortunately, history does not tell us how Saul and Barnabas met. I have a feeling that Barnabas may have even seen Saul carrying out his “faith based” murders. But, there is little doubt that Barnabas knew about Saul’s past.

What’s interesting is that Barnabas had had his own life changing experience. Barnabas was a man of true faith and devotion to God. And, he reached out to Saul.

While others feared that the reformed murderer wasn’t all that reformed, Barnabas spoke up for him. While others shied away, Barnabas testified on Saul’s behalf. Barnabas knew Saul’s changed heart and he loved him like a brother.

Barnabas risked his own reputation to defend Saul.

And, that brings me to my point for today… Leaders speak truth. Leaders don’t shy away from facts. They stand up for and with others. They don’t “consider the cost” of truth telling, or being unpopular, or being seen with those who are not considered politically correct.
Barnabas defended Saul and the world was changed.

Do you have an example of someone standing up for you? Or, can you share when you saw a leader take a stand that wasn’t popular, but reflected truth? Please share and let’s learn from each other!!

p.s. Want to read the story of Saul and Barnabas? Start in Acts 9! http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+9&version=NIV

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