"After some time Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let's go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.' Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus." Acts 15:36-39
What kinds of things cause disagreements among you and your friends? How do you resolve them?
The apostle Paul and Barnabas had enjoyed an amazing friendship. But we read in today's passage that they had a disagreement. Remember, both were godly men and excited about sharing the gospel and planting new churches. However, this disagreement regarding their next missionary journey wasn't a minor argument. It was full-blown opposition between them.
Paul and Barnabas had taken John Mark on a previous mission journey, and he wasn't able to make it to the end. Mark was a younger man (probably in his late teens) who frequently got sick and wasn't used to traveling away from home. Not only was he physically ill, but he was also homesick and missed his mother. Bible scholars believe she was a single mom, because Mark's father isn't mentioned. Paul probably viewed Mark as a "mama's boy" and was frustrated that he couldn't make the entire journey and quit halfway through. Barnabas, however, probably viewed Mark as a young man who was a great help to his mother and genuinely cared about her needs.
So, when the encourager Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance and show that he believed in him, Paul wouldn't hear of it. "He blew the chance we gave him! Why give him another? The work we're doing isn't for the faint of heart. He can't cut it."
Sometimes we mistakenly assume that just because people are Christians, they'll agree and love working with each other. But because God has created each one of us with a unique personality and a different set of gifts and skills, this isn't always true.
We can be solid Christians yet disagree with a Christian brother or sister. The key? Do it in love, and don't let the disagreement affect your confidence in God.
Paul was certainly used in a mighty way by God. He wrote much of the New Testament and was instrumental in planting several churches. He even brought the Gospel to the Gentiles! Yet he was also sometimes stubborn and perhaps got in the way of the fruit of the Spirit shining through him. For example, in this case we certainly don't see patience or gentleness, do we?
We are all continuous works of God. Thankfully, God is not finished with us yet, and He wasn't finished with Paul. The disagreement between the two leaders was unsurpassable, so Paul finally went one way with Silas, and Barnabas and Mark went the other way. God used both teams.
Lord, show me how to handle conflict with love and maturity. Amen.