Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers 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. (Acts 15:36-39)
I hate disagreements and misunderstandings. But the truth of the matter is that all humans are subject to having different views from one another. It is difficult to accept this because the goal is to have love, peace and unity within the Christian body, but in this tainted world that we live, it cannot always be the reality. People have different opinions and expectations. People disagree.
In Acts 15, we are introduced to such an occasion with Paul and Barnabas. The incident shows that even the best of men are well... men, and subject to having and argument. Strangely enough, when I read this passage, I found it comforting to know that even the Apostle Paul was not immune to such an experience.
The writer of Acts shows us a private quarrel between these two ministers. Barnabas wished his nephew John Mark to go with them on a journey to encourage and revisit the churches established. Paul did not think him worthy or fit for the task, because in a former journey John Mark had departed from them without Paul's consent. (See Acts 13:13) Both men had reasonable viewpoints behind their case and neither would yield. So, there was no other remedy to the matter except that Paul and Barnabas agree to disagree.
Matthew Henry said, "We see that the best of men are but men, subject to like passions as we are. Perhaps there were faults on both sides, as usual in such contentions. Christ's example alone, is a copy without a blot. Yet we are not to think it strange, if there are differences among wise and good men. It will be so while we are in this imperfect state; we shall never be all of one mind till we come to heaven. But what mischief the remainders of pride and passion which are found even in good men, do in the world, and do in the church! Many who dwelt at Antioch, who had heard but little of the devotedness and piety of Paul and Barnabas, heard of their dispute and separation; and thus it will be with ourselves, if we give way to contention. Believers must be constant in prayer, that they may never be led by the allowance of unholy tempers, to hurt the cause they really desire to serve."
The good news is, although Paul and Barnabas were in disagreement, they were still able to follow through and carry out their intended purpose to encouraging the furtherance of the gospel. By returning with John Mark to his native land, Barnabas revisited a portion of the brethren to whom he and Paul had originally preached. Paul did the same, but visited another group by means of a different route. Irrespective of their argument, they did not allow the message to suffer, but accomplished their mission separately.
The lesson here is not that we as humans will have disagreements. The lesson is how we choose to proceed forward from those disagreements. Will we let a misunderstanding stir contention between us and be chained down by our egos with the pride to always win an argument? Or will we move forward in love, holding no grudge or ill-will toward one another, with the hope to keep our focus on serving the Lord?
Matthew Henry concludes that later on, "Paul speaks with esteem and affection both of Barnabas and Mark, in his epistles, written after this event. May all who profess thy name, O loving Saviour, be thoroughly reconciled by that love derived from thee which is not easily provoked, and which soon forgets and buries injuries."
It is so easy for women to fall into an unhealthy mindset that gives them a certain sense of entitlement against one another. We can build up expectations in our minds as to how a task or event should work out "just so". We become easily disappointed with one another when the circumstances don't end up matching our intended plans and then can fall into sin by how we choose to handle our emotions.
Friends, if you find yourself in discordance over a matter, please think back to this example of Paul and Barnabas. However passionate you are about its outcome, remember to handle your quarrels with grace - just as these two ministers chose to do. Paul and Barnabas agreed to disagree, but they were wise and did not fall into grumbling or gossiping against one another. Rather, they chose to respectfully part ways and take their own path toward serving God. Although they clashed on a matter, they did not hold resentment toward one another, but rather spoke in love about each other even after the conclusion of these events were over.
God has made each person to have great value and uniqueness. We must always remember to uphold the mindset that God has for others and equally try to love and respect them. In times of conflict, we can agree to disagree when the solution is unclear and both parties interests are in keeping with scripture. Sometimes separating from one another is the best route to take. But if you find yourself in such a circumstance, remember to separate from one another in love.
In all things, in all relationships, our motivation (even in disagreements) should be based in love.
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