Jump Start # 3369
Acts 15:39-40a “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left…”
We have so many wonderful hymns that build upon our love and fellowship for each other. “Bless be the tie that binds our hearts;” “Love one another” are a couple examples. The N.T. is layered with passages about forgiving one another; loving one another; and getting along with one another.
To be honest, fellowship is hard. The larger the congregation, the harder it becomes. Different ideas. Different backgrounds. Different issues. Some young in faith. Some fighting hard to keep the ole’ traditions alive and well. Some get it. Some are trying to get it. Some are not sure if they want to get it.
And, here in a most dramatic passage, we find Paul and Barnabas in a massive disagreement over another person. Paul had his reasons. Mark had left them and gone home earlier. Barnabas had his reasons. Mark was his cousin. Give him a second chance. Yes. No. Yes. No. Back and forth until there was no settling this disagreement. The only answer was splitting up. You go your way and I’ll go my way. And, that’s what they did.
Today, disagreements among brethren continue to lead to separations. They lead to splitting up of congregations. They lead to people never speaking to each other again. They lead to believing the other side is wrong.
Here are some interesting things from the Paul/Barnabas disagreement:
First, God recorded this for us to see. This certainly wasn’t a fond memory that either Paul or Barnabas cherished the rest of their lives. We may think it would have been better had God not recorded this for all times, but He did. It helps us to see that an apostle didn’t always get his way and he didn’t always have sunny days. You and I have disagreements. We can leave worship shaking our heads. We may disagree with the decisions that our shepherds make. That was very clear during Covid. Masks or no masks. Do we cancel gatherings or keep coming together. Pass the Lord’s Supper as we always have, or go to disposable packages? So many decisions to make. And, in most congregations there were a few bumps along the way. Some weren’t happy. Some thought the wrong decision was decided.
Human interactions are difficult.
Second, it shows that Barnabas stood up for someone that he believed in. He opposed an apostle. Paul didn’t pull rank on Barnabas. The two went at it, arguing for what they thought was right. One could make the case that Barnabas didn’t submit or subject himself to Paul.
It wasn’t too much before this that Barnabas was standing up for Paul when the apostle wanted to connect with the brethren in Jerusalem. He had persecuted disciples there. They were afraid of him. Barnabas supported and used his influence to defend Paul. Now, Barnabas was doing this for Mark. But this time, Paul wasn’t having it. He didn’t want Mark. I wonder if Barnabas reminded Paul about Jerusalem and what he did for him?
Third, they went their separate ways continuing to preach Christ. One doesn’t see that Barnabas tried to undermine Paul. We don’t find Paul trash talking Barnabas. The last mention of these two is when Paul rebukes Peter for his hypocrisy and even Barnabas was caught up in that.
Later, in Paul’s last few sentences under inspiration, he asks for Mark to come. Mark is useful. Paul gave him a second chance. Paul was willing to change his mind about Mark.
The disagreement in Acts 15 with Paul and Barnabas wasn’t doctrinal. It wasn’t a matter of what the Bible said.
Sometimes we have to fight for what we believe in, but realize consequences follow.
There may come a time when one just can’t come to an agreement. It is at that point that one must decide whether or not he can continue to work, worship and fellowship with others. The way one leaves speaks volumes about one’s faith and character. Don’t leave angry. Don’t leave trash talking those that stay. Don’t say things on social media. Don’t call others and try to win them to your side. If you must leave, leave nobly as a disciple of Jesus. Don’t burn bridges that will keep you from coming back. And, by all means, don’t forget to pray. Pray for your attitude and spirit. Pray for the wellbeing of those that you separated from.
Seeing the character of Paul that is reflected in his writings, one just knows that there were nights when the apostle prayed and prayed for his dear traveling companion, Barnabas.
When we read Acts 15, who was right? Who was wrong? And, just why do we have to assign those labels? Could it be that they were both right and in some ways both wrong. But more than that, it sure makes us take a long, long look at some of the disagreements we’ve been involved in with brethren. Have there been splits that maybe patience and forgiveness would have prevented? Have there been things that should not have been said?
Paul and Barnabas…they disagreed about Mark. They didn’t disagree about Jesus and they didn’t disagree about what God wanted them to do. Can you imagine that grand reunion in Heaven, with Paul and Barnabas hugging one another!