I used to teach from outlines. Or manuscripts. But certainly something well-framed, linear.
I’m not sure what happened but I don’t anymore. (I actually do know when it happened, which I will tell sometime). Now my notes are more like pictures than outlines. And what I write on flipcharts or whiteboards is more like puzzles than lists.
The card is for a class I taught this morning, part of a series I’m doing on spiritual inferiority. Because of the way some people in the Bible have been talked about in Sunday school, all heroic and perfect and all, we have a sense that we just don’t measure up to that standard.
This morning I was talking about Barnabas. He was an “after the and” kind of guy, the kind of person known as the second seat. Peter AND whoever, Paul AND Barnabas, Mary AND Martha, David AND Jonathan. “After the and” people are the helpers, the encouragers, the behind the scenes people.
Barnabas spent his entire Bible career working with two guys, Paul and Mark. He staked his entire reputation on their value as people at times when everyone else was being critical of them.
Paul had been chasing and killing people because they were in favor of Jesus. He said he changed but, understandably, the people he had been chasing were uncertain. Barnabas, standing on his reputation, said “we should listen”. They listened.
Mark had been traveling with Paul and Barnabas and quit. He went home. The next trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark, Paul didn’t. The disagreement was strong enough that Paul and Barnabas split. Barnabas took Mark and went home.
Actually, he took Mark, his cousin, back to their home island. Mark later worked with Peter and worked with Paul, because Barnabas believed enough in him to risk his reputation a second time.
We often want to help as many people as we can, to influence as many lives as we can, to change the entire world in huge bites. We think of the loud people, the big audience people. We try to grow our circle as wide as possible.
For some people that is exactly the right thing to do. Grow, expand, live large.
For others, however, changing the world means pouring all of our attention into one or two people at a time. It’s risky. They may be murderers or failures. Everyone else, even our closest colleagues, may see no point in it.
But when it’s right, it’s right. Especially when the instructions include “…and love your neighbor…”