Your nickname? You might not have one, unless it’s a different version of your given name. A friend often calls me, “Marcus,” I think, as an expression of our friendship. My wife’s name is Elizabeth, but she has always been ‘Libby.’ Except to the noted counselor and author from Austria, Walter Trobisch, who passed away many years ago. When he met Libby he thought the name did not do justice to her grand personality, so he would only call her Elizabeth. You only had to meet Walter Trobisch once to know that he could get away with that. This quietly intense man who could evoke the deepest confession with one penetrating look followed by a question was the kind of person when you met, you would say, “Hello, Mr. Trobishc. How am I?”
One of my favorite stores in the life of the Early Church is about a man we know mostly by his nickname. This person was so important to the development of the spread of Christianity that it could b said that apart from him no one out of Palestine would have ever heard about Jesus. For instance, he was the person who connected Saul, who became the apostle Paul, to the first disciples and leaders of the church in Jerusalem. He later went and found Paul and connected him to the first significant church outside of Jerusalem, in Antioch. In other words, if it hadn’t been for him, Paul, “the Apostle to the Gentiles” might never have been connected or launched.
Who was he? Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. Or, we know him better as ‘Barnabas,’ his nickname. The church leaders gave him this nickname, which means, ‘Son of Encouragement’,’ because, apparently, that’s what he did. He encouraged people. He also built bridges between people who would not otherwise connect. He was described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”
The interesting question: If those who know you best gave you a nickname that describes how you relate to people, what would it be? What would you like it to be? What would you like to be most true in how you relate to others? Are there some things you are afraid it might be?
Like . . .
Ugh. I can think of a few that may fit me too well.
But, you know, something, I would like to have Barnabas’ description fit me first, before I start worrying about nicknames: “a good person, full of God’s Spirit and faith.”
Acts 4:36,37, 9:26,27, 11:19-26