Being Barnabas

Posted by Phil Altmeyer, Executive Director Oct 1, 2013 11:37:32 AM

Phil - Union Gospel Mission

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering,” Hebrews 13:3.

Prisons in ancient times generally served a different purpose than modern-day prisons, and when we read of captives in the Bible, the larger context usually pertains to the Israelites in exile from their homeland or followers of Christ being persecuted for their faith. The reference is not usually to someone being punished for a violent crime. So, does God really call us to minister to men and women who are in, or coming out of, the correctional system? Yes, for a number of reasons, I think He does.

First and perhaps most importantly, we are all in the same boat. The basic human condition is one of failing, messing up, hurting each other, falling painfully short. Unchecked, it’s difficult to say where our own struggles with pride and jealousy might take us. Our hope is the same as David’s in Psalm 25: “Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

Secondly, jail tends to cause people to see their need for God in a way that prosperity and success don’t. Paul, featured in the cover story, put it like this: “It took a long time for me to learn that I have no strength to be good on my own.” Prison made Paul receptive to the gospel.

My third point is the story of another Paul, a hater and persecutor of Christians who stood idly by while an innocent man was murdered.  In the beginning of Acts 9, the Apostle Paul was threatening to arrest or kill anyone who claimed to follow Jesus. By the middle of the chapter, he claims to be a different man and wants to join the very people he’s been persecuting. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26-27).

Barnabas stood up for Paul. He came alongside him and introduced him to the early church, and eventually, Paul went on to write a significant portion of the New Testament. We can be like Barnabas – believing that God really does change lives.

Topics: ugm, Rescue, Heart to Heart, being barnabas, minister, Phil Altmeyer, second chance

Click here to see all articles for the October 2013 issue.

 

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