Acts 15:36-41 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Reflection This passage always makes me feel rather better about disagreements than we are taught. Whilst we are indeed all one in Christ, we certainly don’t share the same viewpoints and have very different understandings about what our work in the Lord should be. On a personal level, I often find myself strongly disagreeing with church viewpoints and traditions, no matter the denomination. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church I don’t disagree with on some fundamental issue or other. On the other hand, at least it shows I’m listening!
These days I hope my disagreements don’t cause a parting of the ways, but if this passage teaches us anything it should teach us that a parting of the ways is not necessarily a bad thing, however sharp the argument. Here, two strong Christians have very contrasting views about John Mark (a man I find I have much sympathy for) and in the end they decide to work separately rather than together. Barnabas goes to Cyprus, while Paul heads for Syria. It seems like a bad result, but our God is used to bad results and is skilled in making the very best of them for the glory of His Kingdom. From this one argument, the Kingdom is strengthened in two separate places, whereas if Barnabas and Paul had agreed with each other, God’s workers would only have travelled to one place. From a sharp argument, and by God’s grace, an unexpected good has come.
Prayer Dear Lord, help us not to be afraid of disagreement. Help us to let Your light into all our arguments, however passionate, so that Your Kingdom can come more fully in our world. Amen.