June 4: Kind Disagreement

Read Acts 15:36-16:5

I have to admit that I was initially reluctant to direct our attention to this passage.  After all, our focus this week is on the value of agreement in your family and in life in general.  Unfortunately, what plays out in the Scripture reading today is exactly the opposite.  It is not just a difference of opinion.  No, Dr. Luke (the author) describes it as “sharp disagreement.”

Although Paul and Barnabas were both committed to the mission, they were unable to find common ground on the method.  Should they include John Mark as part of the ministry or not?  Joseph, nicknamed Barnabas or “Son of Encouragement,” felt strongly about it.  Perhaps by his very makeup, he was able to see John’s future potential and what could be developed.  He wanted to take him along.  Paul, however, had deep convictions too.  He remembered the past.  Vivid in his memory was the day when John, on missionary journey #1, had just up and left, abandoning them.  He couldn’t imagine including him this time.

Rather than experiencing unity, the two were miles apart on this issue.  Rather than heading out together, they parted ways.  Yes, the ministry was multiplied, but their hearts were divided.

So what tipped the scale?  Why did I encourage you to read this story?  Well, it is very possible that you have a relationship or two in which you have experienced something similar.  Here comes the lesson for us.  Even though Paul wrote voluminously…more than a dozen letters…and though he regularly reflects on ministry past, missionary journeys, challenges, and people, not once did he bad mouth either Barnabas or John Mark.  On the contrary, Paul, in the book of Philemon, refers to Mark as a “fellow worker” (Philemon 24).  And in the last days of Paul’s life, as he is fully aware of the imminence of his death, the apostle said, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  (2 Timothy 4:11).

In those relationships from your past where you have experienced disagreement and even a parting of the ways, have you seen it as your mission to spread a bad report about them?  Until the day that you experience reconciliation, can you determine to not verbally destroy them before others?