Friday, August 9, 2013

When we disagree

"36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 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. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."   Acts 15:36-41

Disagreement within the church is nothing new. Even in the pages of the New Testament this story of Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement which resulted in them parting ways.  There will always be those who look upon these events in a negative way, but let's look at some positives. 

First of all, the separation of Paul and Barnabas was not because of a doctrinal disagreement. They were both in agreement on believing in the salvation that comes through the cross of Christ. The above verses describe their disagreement being based on Mark, who had abandoned them in an earlier missionary trip, and now Barnabas wants to take him on another such trip, but Paul did not think that was wise. 

Secondly, instead of having four men traveling in one direction on a missionary journey, there are now two missionary teams traveling in different directions. That simply means Barnabas and Mark can go one way and accomplish a great deal of good for the cause of Jesus, and Paul and Silas can go another direction with the same powerful gospel message and be successful in their mission of strengthening the churches.

Another thing worthy of mention; these men who were having such a bitter disagreement apparently did not lose the respect of each other. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul mentions Barnabas as being worthy of financial support for his work.  Two who disagreed, and now there is mutual respect at the forefront.  Not only this, years later, Paul even gave instructions for Mark to be brought to him because he was so "useful" in the ministry. 

We should be glad the Holy Spirit brought us the story of Paul and Barnabas. It enables us to see in the church today the possibility of disagreement continues. If you have been in the church for very long, regardless of what church you attend, you will be made aware of disagreement from time to time.  Yes it is sad when those problems arise, but the example of Paul and Barnabas is plain for us.

Since we are aware of the fact that problems can arise, shouldn't we vow to ourselves and to God, we are not going to let our petty disagreements get in the way of the advancement of the gospel message?  If you have not pledged that, think seriously about pledging it now.  Also, regardless of the problem, do not put yourself in a position of losing respect for each other.  God's Spirit dwells in us, just as he does in all believers.  Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit will always make our disagreement experiences something that can produce positive results. 


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