Barnabas had helped Paul in Jerusalem by personally bringing him to the leaders. He put his reputation on the line for a young convert who had previously pledged to persecute the church. Once in Antioch, Barnabas sought out Paul in Tarsus in order to once again bring him into the community.
Without Barnabas there would never have been a Paul as we know him. Barnabas believed in the young man when others rejected him. Barnabas placed his reputation on the line for him when it would have been much easier to look the other way. Barnabas went out of his way to seek out Paul for ministry. He brought him into a young community where Paul could grow in the use of his gifts. Without Barnabas, no Paul.
One of the falacies of US culture is our staunch appeal to individualism. We insist on "do-it-myself" attitudes. The cars we purchase, the sports we choose, the products we buy all reflect a culture focused on "me" over "us". In the process, we begin to think that each of us arrived at our present state of maturity and development through our own efforts when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Personally my inventory must include people like my grandfathers, one that I recognize now as a kind and gentle leader of our church and the other that shaped me on a daily basis. I recognize an old professor that asked me to be his assistant when I was a freshman so that he could mentor me; without him I would never have made it graduate school. I recognize another professor that called me to her office after class and asked me how I was going to use my gifts; she then coached me through the application to vet school (I was admitted on the first try and ranked 10th in the class . . . she did a great job!). My father-in-law taught me to raise sons, Wilfredo taught me to walk humbly, my wife taught me devotion and the list goes on. Like everyone else, I am a product of the people that God has placed in my life.
Years to come, someone will sit down to reflect on who has shaped them. It seems to me that being on that list is the only way we really live on in the world. As Christians we believe that death is not the end and we will live on with the Lord. Yet to live on here means leaving a piece of ourself in the hearts of those around us. It means taking risks and investing a part of us in the lives of others. It means leaving Antioch to seek out the Pauls that others might not believe in. It means having the Barnabas effect on others.