My oh my… doesn’t it seem as though our government is in the midst of a civil war? Red vs. Blue… Dem vs. GOP… Conservative vs. Liberal… President vs. Congress. It’s crazy, there is no civil discourse taking place. Only seeds or hate and anger seem to be planted. Very sad.
So, how is a Christian to conduct themselves in these days of division? Well, back in the first century, we see a couple of prominent brothers in the faith… Paul and Barnabas, in a heated dispute.
You see, these brothers were getting ready to set out on their second missionary trip. They had taken John Mark along with them on their first… and Barny wanted to bring him along for the second. But John Mark, he had struggled on the first trip… and had left in the midst of the journey to go back home (baby Christians can do that from time to time- bite off more than they can chew). And now, Paul… focusing on the journey ahead, didn’t want to have that happen again and didn’t want John Mark to come along… let’s read the details in Acts15:36-40…
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
Sharp disagreement. Who was right, who was wrong? The answer: neither.
They were just focused on different things that the Lord had put on their hearts. Paul was focused on follow-up ministry to churches that had been planted. Barnabas was concerned with restoring John Mark and having him grow in discipleship. Neither was right, neither was wrong. They just had different callings from the Lord.
The end result? The Holy Spirit created two different , very successful ministries from this disagreement. Also, we see the healing hand of the Lord in the relationship… when at the end of Paul’s days… as he sits in a Roman prison, awaiting his execution… he writes Timothy, his son in the faith… and he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:11… Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
You see there was no lasting resentment… no “my way or the highway” mentality between the three of them… no, just a recognititon that the Lord was doing different things in each of their lives.
That should be our approach in life as well, I think. We don’t want to build walls and alienate people. We want the Lord to use us in sharing the gospel- in a loving, Christ like manner. As Paul tells us in Romans 12:18… If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men…