Seeing the best in life's challenges

Encouraging People

on February 9, 2012

Encouraging People is a book by Rev. Donald Bubna.  I don’t remember how I found it, but my copy is from a second printing in 1989, so I know it was a long time ago.   I just googled Don Bubna, and found that he passed away in September of 2011.

The book presents an interesting and thorough analysis of the topic, and explores what the Bible has to say about the ministry of encouragement.

As much as I enjoyed what this book had to say about encouraging people, that’s not the primary reason it stuck with me.  That’s what I want to write about.

Chapter 12 is entitled “When We Disagree.”  In this chapter, Bubna talks about situations where good, well-intentioned people can’t agree, and they choose to separate.  He talks about how painful disagreements can be.

The example he uses from the Bible is the situation in Acts 15:36-41, where Paul and Barnabas disagree on how their ministry should move forward, and they decide to go their separate ways.

Bubna writes:

The division between these two New Testament giants is worthy of our study.  Paul was proposing a second missionary journey.  Barnabas agreed but insisted on taking John Mark, who had abandoned the party on the first missionary journey.  True to his encouraging and forgiving nature as the one to come alongside, Barnabas believed Mark should have another chance and be included.

But Paul seemed to think that the mission was too important to take another risk.  He saw John Mark as unreliable.  Paul seemed to think Barnabas was too lenient, while Barnabas seemed to think Paul was too inflexible and stern.

It isn’t clear who was right, since the Bible didn’t say either was wrong.  It is possible that they were both right.  John Mark needed to know his error was  serious, and Paul’s tough love could make him realize just how serious his failure had been.  He also needed Barnabas to continue to have faith in him, despite his failure, and to provide him with another chance.  Tough love and mercy are both a part of the ministry of paraclesis.

It is very clear to me that my basic nature is that of a Barnabas.  I grew up in a family of Barnabas’s.  Always see the best in people.  Give them a second chance.  Be encouraging.

But not everyone has this perspective.  There are a lot of Pauls out there.

The point made in the book, is that BOTH of these perspectives are helpful and necessary.  I may lean toward one side, but I have to appreciate the other way of thinking and its importance.  It’s not about which is right and which is wrong, it’s about BALANCE.

The book helped me understand why the writings of Paul can make me uncomfortable.  That tough love approach, to me, feels too rough at times.  Isn’t it curious that so many books of the Bible were written by Paul from this perspective?

So, here’s the “Food For Thought” section:

1.  What happened to the perspective of Barnabas?  Where are his books in the Bible?  I’m not going to pursue that question…..if it strikes you, google away.  Why our Bible includes what it does, and why other ancient writings are not in there, well, that’s a whole other topic and you can form your own opinion about that.

2.  There are a lot of people “out there” who are talking about how the world is transitioning from an over-abundance of masculine energy, to a more balanced world of both masculine and feminine, where we can appreciate the best of both sides.  When I think of these two perspectives, the Barnabas approach is feminine (about feeling), while Paul’s approach is more masculine (about doing).

3.  Does anyone else see the parallel between Paul’s approach and the current Republican/Conservative view of the world?  And the similarities between the Barnabas way of thinking and the Democratic/Liberal view?  Human nature wants to decide who is “right”, but what this book (and the Bible) is saying, is that sometimes what we need is a balance between the two approaches, not a “winner.”

One response to “Encouraging People

  1. […] am adding this comment later:  If you read my previous post Encouraging People you will see that I was thinking this way a long time ago….the parallel is that when you […]

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