“The contention became so sharp that they parted from one another.”
The Book of Acts contains the somewhat tragic account of how Paul and Barnabas, once good friends and colleagues, had an argument so heated they ended up parting company. The issue was, of all things, ministry work. On their first missionary journey they had taken John-Mark, a close relative of Barnabas. Part way into the journey, John-Mark lost his nerve and defected. As they prepared to embark on their second journey, Barnabas was intent on once again bringing John-Mark along. Paul protested, insisting “that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). The conflict escalated, and it was decided that Paul and Barnabas should part company. Paul took Silas into Asia Minor, Barnabas took John-Mark to Cyprus (Acts 15:39-41). It is difficult to say who was right in all this. Paul certainly had a point; taking a proven failure along again might be asking for trouble. On the other hand, God is full of grace for us and we ought to extend grace to others. Just because John-Mark failed in the past does not by itself bring down the conclusion that he will do so again. Luke doesn’t tell us who was right in the conflict, but reflecting upon it more deeply, we can see where both men were wrong. Throughout the Book of Acts, we see God’s people consulting and interacting with the Lord in prayer. The Good Shepherd, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, was pleased to direct the affairs of His new church. Here, however, we have no mention of God being consulted for His opinion on things. When the conflict arose, both men, it appears, slipped into their “humanness.” They argued back and forth, tempers flared, and the conflict escalated. How different might this account have read had these men decided to halt the conflict at its very beginning and instead asked the Lord what He would have them do. How different might things have turned out had these men stopped arguing and starting praying, with and for each other! When disagreements escalate and we begin to feel threatened, attacked, or disrespected, we often feel the need to defend ourselves, striking back with stinging words at our perceived opponents in the process. The last thing we feel like doing is praying. But dear friends, that is precisely when prayer is most needed. As Christ’s ambassadors whose treatment of one another deeply affects our witness (John 13:35), let us commit ourselves to more fervent and sincere prayer, with and for each other, especially in times of disagreement and conflict.
May God bless and encourage you with these words today,