Paul had Barnabas. David had Jonathan. You need someone who gets you and loves you anyway. These are people in your life who sharpen you.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 HCSB
We need friends that are heading in the same direction: Jesus. We need people who will walk this journey with us. Our Pauls in life are ahead of us, our Timothys are behind us, and our Barnabas friends are next to us.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. That’s the word picture we need for our Barnabas friends. These are the kind of friends who can tell you when you’ve stepped out of line, who know your heart song and sing it back to you when you forget. They have your back. They walk beside you and are often in the same stage of life as you. They tell you when you have lettuce in your teeth too, which we all know is necessary and needful.
I have several Barnabas friends in my life. Typically, my Barnabas friends have been my polar-opposites. They balance me beautifully. They typically have wildly different personalities than me. Vivacious and colorful and eccentric. But our hearts are tightly woven together because we share the same Jesus and strong faith in the Word. One person commented to me about one of my closest friends: “you two are like the fox and the hound”. We laughed and acknowledged how true his words were. We are from different church denominations, look very different in dress styles, and our personalities couldn’t be more opposite.
Barnabas relationships can be like that…but here’s the thing: I become the best version of who Jesus wants me to be when I have Barnabas friends who are different than me and we can love each other because of it. They will show you a different perspective and fill in the spaces YOU CAN’T.
You can’t be everything for everyone all the time. That’s why you need your people. Your Barnabas friends. To fill all the spaces you can’t and be the person you aren’t made to be (but they are). There will be days that you need your friends to point you to Jesus.
There is a story I love in the Bible about friends. It’s found in Mark 2:1-12. When it comes to friends, I think this passage nails it down to four specific things that a good friend is. To cap the story in a nutshell, Jesus is in his hometown teaching in a house. The crowd gathered so big that there wasn’t room for anymore. There was a paralyzed man who needed to be healed…but he couldn’t get to Him. So, his four friends carried him to Jesus. (Y’all, that’ll preach…but I’ll try not to get sidetracked here…) If that wasn’t enough, when they arrived there and couldn’t get to Him, they refused to take NO for an answer. They took their friend to the roof and broke through. Then they lowered their friend to Jesus to be healed.
Verse 5 slays me every time: “Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Later He heals the man and WALKS away. In my Bible, I’ve underlined and circled the phrase SEEING THEIR FAITH. I think it’s amazing that Jesus healed this man based on his friends’ faith, not his own. WOW. Y’all. That’s proof that it DOES MATTER who you choose for your friends. Do they have faith? Are they persistent? Will they carry you to Jesus? Are they willing to show up and get into your mess when you need them to?
Find your people.
The ones who will love you and not think anything less of you no matter what you tell them. Your people, your Barnabas friends, will show up and walk with you through tough times. They will carry you to Jesus. They will hold your hand when you’re crying and wipe your tears away. Your Barnabas friends will say: “I’m with you.” We don’t get places alone.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -African proverb
Evaluate Your Relationships: Name your Barnabas friends. Ask yourself these questions: are these people pointing me to Jesus? Are they full of faith and persistence? Are they willing to get in the mess with me? Do they show up when I need them? Also ask yourself this: am I that kind of friend to others?
Also note, everyone needs friends. But not everyone needs YOU as their friend. If there is someone you have a friendship with that is toxic to you…that’s not God’s best for you. He will bring someone else along that can be the friend they need. Don’t compromise your health (spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically) by trying to be friends with everyone. There are such things as leeches and you don’t have to always submit to their shenanigans.