“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.” “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Galatians 2:1; Proverbs 13:20; 27:17 Barnabus, Titus
In this simple description of Paul’s early years of public ministry, we are drawn to the importance of companions. Paul had undergone a remarkable spiritual transformation- when God brought Paul to his knees, He sent Ananias to confront him. From the beginning, He provided Barnabus, the “encourager,” to be his friend, initially to introduce and defend him, and then, after Paul’s time alone of being steeped in the Lord, to travel with him and share in his influential work as a strong comrade and confidante. They did not always agree, but God worked much good from their opposing opinions, not only to spread the gospel further as they at one time parted ways, but by giving us an example of how to agree to disagree fruitfully. Here in Galatians, it is Paul who refutes Peter over an inaccurate conduct. Titus, a Greek who learned much about faith in Jesus from Paul, offered this Jewish intellect a non-Jewish perspective, and so, even as his ‘understudy’ in faith, deepened Paul’s understanding of how to reach the Gentiles with the gospel. (Acts 4:36; 9:1-22,26-27; 15:36-41; Galatians 1:15-22; Titus 1:4-5)
We need encouragers, and we need to encourage and disciple. We need different viewpoints. Lives are made rich through interactions and friendships with those older and younger, more seasoned and wise and those who need edification and support. We learn from, and our ministry is enhanced by, those God places around us, maybe for a short season, sometimes through love history. Our interactions should uplift, encourage, and console, we must speak and receive the truth in love, and so build up one another. (Acts 9:10-17; 1 Corinthians 14:3; Galatians 2:11-14; Ephesians 4:15)
Would I take an assessment of my companions? Do I prefer to surround myself with those who always agree with me, whose inclination is to go along with my plans and attitudes (including negative), those whom I can lead and somewhat control and who do nothing to build me up in the faith? Am I content to align myself with those who pull me down spiritually, who allow me to relish the world’s satisfactions with the excuse that I am morally superior and just want to relate to others? Do I seek only those from whom I can learn, and I am always the sponge, the taker, even sometimes to mooch, claiming myself inadequate, or not having the time or energy to ever do any good for others? Do I only want to pontificate about my opinions, that are always right? Or am I, in God’s grace, open to a variety of friendships, to learning from others and generously giving back?
Lord, may I unselfishly and lovingly befriend and interact with all sorts of people, be eager and willing to both learn and teach, to take and to give. Please so weave my life with others’ that Your Body radiates love and power to the onlooking world.