Bible Reflection
Putting people in a box

Putting people in a box

Do we draw a conclusion about a person’s character, integrity, gifts, abilities, skills, personality, etc. Most of us will sum people up and put them in a box and label it.

The person is now defined in our eyes.

Ever looked at someone and not given them an opportunity to have a ‘crack-at-it’ because they let you down once before?

It is interesting to see that even in the early church an argument occurred between two Apostles over whether to give a third person a second chance. To the point where the two apostles argued over this so sharply that they parted company.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Acts 15:36-41

We don’t see Barnabas and Mark appear in Acts again. But interestingly Paul names Barnabas as setting a noble example in working for himself in 1 Corinthians 9:6. Also, he mentions him again in Galatians 2:11-13 where Barnabas is in Antioch. It would seem that Mark returned from his work with Barnabas and became associated with Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Later in Colossians 4:10 we see that Mark is now with Paul:

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Colossians 4:10

Paul’s respect for Mark is now evident. He writes, on his behalf, a greeting. Mark was a fellow prisoner.

By the end of Paul’s life he came to admire Mark so much that he requested he come to be with him during his final days:

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
2Timothy 4:11

Even Paul misjudged Mark in the beginning. At that time he was not convinced that Mark was a ‘stayer’ as he had already demonstrated this by deserting them earlier. Paul put him in a box called, “deserter”. Paul was not prepared to give him a second chance.

Barnabas, who was the encourager, did give Mark the second chance. And Mark took it and ran with it. Maybe the rejection of Paul and the encouragement of Barnabas were the two things needed to see Mark break out of the box called, “deserter”, grow and forge on even to the point of imprisonment for the Faith.

As hard as it is, we must try not to place people into a box. I know most people put others in a box… it is just the easy thing to do. But as a follower of Jesus, you are not just ‘most people’, are you?

We need to look beyond the present and look to what can be. It doesn’t mean we just accept the person as they are and leave it at that. If we truly love others, as Christ loves us, we would look beyond the present and into the future and for who they can become. This can only be done, if we are prepared to put in the hard work, and through encouragement and set boundaries we commit to see it through for the long haul.

This is no different to what Jesus does for each one of us. He sees what we can be and not what we are now. He loves us into eternity. Personally, I am so glad he did and does that with me!

Therefore, ask yourself this: Who do I need to set free (open the box) and give a second chance to? Who can I be a Barnabas to? Who is my Mark?