Again, as I look at this passage, I try to imagine the reaction the believers had toward Saul when he first came to Jerusalem. What was their first interaction with him? The last time they had seen him publicly, he had been giving his approval to the death of Stephen.
Did he try to see them privately first? Or did he see the apostles worshiping at the temple one day and say “Shalom. Hey, I’m one of you now. “
I think of Raul Ries who’s the pastor of a large church in California. He had been a very violent man before he found Christ, and had abused his wife to the point where she was about to leave him. When he came home one day and found his wife’s bags packed (she had gone to church), he was ready to kill her and his kids. But God intervened through, of all things, a TV program in which he saw Pastor Chuck Smith talking about the love of Christ. And upon hearing it, he fell to his knees and received Christ. He then went looking for his wife to tell her the news.
He couldn’t find her, but when he returned home, he found the door locked and heard his wife weeping. (He had trashed the house while he had been waiting for her). He knocked on the door, and after latching it, she opened it and asked, “What do you want?”
He told her, “I’m born again.”
She slammed the door on him.
Eventually she let him in, and after a year or two of watching him, and the change she saw God doing in his life, she came to fully believe in him.
That was the response of the apostles to Saul. Saul told them, “I’m born again.” And they slammed the door on him. And I can totally understand their reaction.
But just as Ries’ wife chose to open the door to him, so Barnabas did to Saul. He had probably had the benefit of either actually seeing Saul in Damascus or talking to the brothers who had been there. And because of that, he stood with Saul, and told the apostles, “I believe in him. He really has changed.”
It probably took time for the apostles to fully accept him. But as they watched him, and saw the work God was doing in his life, they came to totally believe in him too.
What’s my point? Even the worst people can change when they come to Christ. And we need to give them that chance.
There may be people who have hurt you. But then they come to Christ, and say they have changed. Yet despite this, we keep them at a distance, refusing to believe that they have really changed. I can understand that reaction.
But like the Barnabas, we need to give people a chance. I’m not saying that we need to fully open the door of our hearts to them right away. If they have a track record of hurting us in the past, then I think it’s only prudent to keep your guard up, at least to an extent. But give them a chance. And watch them. If you see God working in their lives, then gradually start opening the door of your heart to them.
After all, God has given you grace and many second chances. As his children, it’s only right that we extend that to others as well.