My pastor once said that if you want to learn about the disputes within a church, check out that church’s constitution. Those bylaws and amendments that make you do a double take – those were written in response to a problem that arose. It’s also been said of Baptists that the most effective form of church planting is a church split. I know, it sounds cynical, right? It is a sad truth that we as Christians often get so comfortable in our circumstances that we won’t change unless we have a major disagreement.
If only we could be like the early church. Paul and Barnabas – the first official missionaries did such a great job. Er….wait…..“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:39-41) The disagreement came up because of trust issues. Paul felt that Mark had deserted the group during the first trip; Barnabas either thought Mark had good reason or was willing to forgive Mark. It was in the disagreement that we saw the missionary force of the early church double as now two teams were heading out into the world with the gospel.
Obviously disagreements like that are not the best way for the church to grow. That being said, such problems are not the end of the world, nor even the end of the church. In later years, Paul depended on Mark. Barnabas, staying true to his nature, thought Mark could be rehabilitated, and he was proven right. Paul felt the urgency of the gospel demanded trustworthy people and he didn’t have time to rebuild trust on the mission field. As we see the results of his work, how can we argue? I am sure that both Barnabas and Paul said things that they wish they could take back. I can’t help but wonder the regret both felt because of the broken relationship. While we saw Paul and Mark had reunited (2 Timothy 4:11) We never did see that Paul and Barnabas had reconciled.
God can use disagreements to further His kingdom. Even more so He uses unity in fellowship. When disagreements rise in a relationship the key to resolving them is to listen to and respect the other person. Even if you can’t continue working together the way you have worked in the past, commit to continuing your service in the Lord and praying for the other person.
Lord God, this thing called life is hard. Dealing with friends and co-workers is hard too. Each one of us is right in our own mind. Always guide me in the way you think is right and give me grace to love others even when I think they are wrong.