“Mentoring is a mutuality that requires more than meeting the right teacher: the teacher must meet the right student.”
― Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life
Parker J. Palmer is an expert in the field of education and particularly in the area of spiritual formation in education. When we take a look at Barnabas this week we see that he also seems to know a little about teaching others and especially about mentorship. When he is sent to Antioch to get a better understanding about what is happening there, he also sends for Paul to come from Tarsus to join him. I think we get a better picture of the relationship between Paul and Barnabas when we begin to view Barnabas as the mentor and Paul as the mentee. Palmer states that there must be“mutuality” in this relationship. So, what is it?
Other than they are both followers of Christ, we know that Barnabas is a Levite and we know that Paul is a Pharisee. Knowing this gives us some insight into their relationship. As a Levite Barnabas was trained in priestly duties and a reading of Leviticus will give you some insight to his training. The word Leviticus is Greek which means pertaining to the Levites. The Hebrew name for the book is Vayikra which means “And He called.” As you read Leviticus you will see that it has a lot to do with the Law. As a Pharisee, Paul was an expert in the Law. He was trained in the written Law (Torah the first five books of the Bible) as well as the oral traditions of the Law.
What they have in mutuality now is how as experts in a specific area and now that specific area is all changed as a result of the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and their commitment to him as Lord. Barnabas an expert in the Law regarding offerings and sacrifices now “understands” Christ is the ultimate sacrifice and Paul who is an expert in both the written and oral Law “understands” Christ as the fulfillment of the Law. Their mutuality is their relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing that with others.
For Barnabas and Paul to have the relationship that they enjoyed in ministry required not only mutuality but a great “understanding” of each other. If we are to have a missions ministry, it will require that we seek to “understand” as much if not more than we seek to be “understood.” With Barnabas and Paul as their mentors, don’t you find it easy to “understand” why they were first called Christians in Antioch?
Much Love, John.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
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