My wife and I teach Sunday school for kids in grades 4 through 6. I do not believe I am that good of a teacher, but I try (sometimes too hard) and I want to help kids avoid the mistakes I made early in life. I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I did not become a Christian until my late 20s.
While looking through a Stories of Grace lesson plan from California-based Striving Together Publications, I came across a lesson on Barnabas. The theme involves encouragement and begins by explaining to readers how surnames came into existence. For those not already aware, a man’s surname might have developed out of a nickname based on his father’s name. Therefore, a son of John might have become a Johnson over time. If the man was a blacksmith, his surname might have become Smith. A surname could even have been based on someone’s personality. So, if a man was moody, he might have become known as Moody. In terms of Barnabas, that is actually the surname of a guy named Joses. Acts 4:36 tells us that the apostles gave him the surname Barnabas. It means ‘son of consolation’ or encouragement.
Barnabas had to have been a special individual prior to him being introduced in the New Testament. Call me crazy, but I do not think he just sold some property, donated the money to his church and was given a cool name from Peter et al. Barnabas was most likely active in the early church, getting to know his fellow members and doing what he could to get the word out to his community.
The Stories of Grace lesson wraps everything up nicely by asking readers to consider what nickname God would give them. That question blew my mind. To be sure, God knows us and loves us, but I have to wonder whether he would (lovingly) refer to me as Grumpelstiltskin. That’s what I call my two-year-old when she is not in a good mood. She gets that from me.
I have heard other people refer to their kids as Bud, ‘bright eyes’ and ‘sunshine.’ My mother used to call me AJAX, although I’m still not sure what that was about. Anyway, the point of this is to think of what God might nickname you, based on your behavior or personality. Are you a son of encouragement? Or, are you Mister Moody? Only you can answer this question, but just take a moment and think about how you have behaved around other people. If you have behaved poorly, apologize to the people you feel you have wronged. You can even pray to God to help you with your heart. I have a feeling that Barnabas prayed, not only for himself but for people in his church and the community at large. Are you? The year is still new. Try something ‘new’ and be an encouragement today.