As a hospice chaplain I visit folks in health care facilities where I am still required to wear a face mask. 

Mine is bright orange, patterned with small tongues of fire.  It is noticed, especially in the unit where my friends are memory impaired.

One resident throws a fit whenever she sees me, “Take that off! Why do you wear that thing?” I tell her, “My boss makes me wear it, cause I’m so ugly.”

The other day, however, I encountered a resident who was impressed.  She looked at my mask and said, “I really like your beard.”   I said, “Oh – well OK – thank you!”

They both looked at the same masked face. One was repulsed and the other delighted.  

Beauty really is in the eyes of the beholder.   But what we see in others, is often controlled by our own skewed perception rather than what is actually true.  I mean if we are looking through a pair of green sun-glasses – everybody is going to look green. 

And though our perceptions of others may not be true to reality, they can reshape their reality. 

There was once a baby boy who was dubbed Barnabas, which means son of encouragement.   His parents gave him a name that would shape his character.

He lived up to their expectations.  According to Acts 4 the man was saddened by the needs of the poor.  So, he sold his land and donated the money to help (Acts 4:36)   The rich guy elevated and encouraged those poor folk! 

Saul, the reviled persecutor of the church, needed the acceptance of the church.  The new convert was already preaching his heart out.  The apostles were understandably skeptical.  Barnabas, on the other hand, refused to let the past petrify his perception.  He believed in the new Saul and used his influence with the church.  (Acts 9:27-28)

Barnabas even decided that Paul (formerly Saul) had great ministry potential and personally mentored him for over a year.  Acts 11:22-26)

Soon after, Barnabas and Paul were sent out on the first ever missionary journey.  They took along a third man to mentor.  But the work was tough, and Mark was young.  He deserted the team to go home to momma.

A second mission trip was scheduled but there was trouble according to Acts 15:36-40, “After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return and visit the brothers in every town where we proclaimed the word of the Lord to see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to bring John called Mark along with them too, 38 but Paul insisted that they should not take along this one who had left them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 39 They had a sharp disagreement, so much so, that they parted company. Barnabas took along Mark and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and set out, commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers and sisters.”

Paul had been mentored by the son of encouragement, but he evidently missed the encouragement lesson.  He perceived Mark as an untrustworthy loser – not worth the risk.  Barnabas saw him as a kid who made a mistake but had great potential and needed a second chance. 

The two titans argued.  If Mark was present for the clash, his ego must have bobbed like a cork on an angry lake.

The rock band disbanded over the issue.  Paul went one way with Silas, and Barnabas took Mark, just as he had once done with Paul.

Barnabas evidently did his thing because Mark grew into the man that Barnabas perceived him to be.   Even Paul eventually appreciated the change.  Ten years later he wrote, “Get Mark and bring him with you because he is a great help to me in ministry.”  (2 Tim 4:11)

And then that former loser Mark, went on to pen the earliest of the four Gospels.  Thank you, Barnabas, for seeing what Paul could not. 

So, when you look at your kid, do you see the promised land or a waste land?  Do you treat your spouse as a winner or a wiener?  Does your boss sense your respect or your revulsion?  Do you cause your elderly parents to feel like burdens or blessings? 

Whether we like it or not we are actively shaping the people around us.

A PRAYER: Lord help me to see what You see when I look at others – and to treat them accordingly.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®