Job 36-37 Acts 15:22-41
“Paul and Barnabas had such a serious argument about this that they separated and went different ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left. The believers in Antioch put Paul into the Lord’s care, and he went through Syria and Cilicia, giving strength to the churches. (Acts 15:39-41 NCV)
The Jerusalem Conference was an amazing display of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. The leaders of the church wanted Gentiles to know that they were accepted as brothers and sisters in Christ with few restrictions: they should avoid meat offered to idols or with blood in it, and they should avoid sexual sins. Those who pushed for Gentile believers to become Jewish first were quieted as they heard the stories of God’s work among the Gentiles. A letter was drafted and sent to the church at Antioch. It encouraged the believers there and they had great joy. Things were great in the Christian world. Then, Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit the churches they formed during their missionary journey. They argued over whether or not to take John Mark, who had left them during that first trip. The argument was so strong that Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways: Barnabas left with Mark and Paul left with Silas – one of the Jews who had helped bring the letter from Jerusalem.
It seems strange that after the amazing show of unity after the Jerusalem Conference, Paul and Barnabas would have a fight. They’d worked and suffered together for the cause of Christ. They’d worked together to see Gentiles accepted fully into the church. Still the fight came up. Barnabas, showing the same compassion that had brought Paul into the fellowship of believers one he accepted Christ tried to show the same compassion to John Mark. He sought redemption for the young man. Paul, whose character was more focused on getting things done, wouldn’t hear about that. God used the disagreement to extend the mission work of the church. Later, Paul would commend Mark to Timothy. Who was right? God was right when He used the argument for His glory. Sometimes Christians argue today. Words better left unsaid are shouted, or worse, posted on Social Media to embarrass the people who hold the opposite position. We can have strong opinions that differ from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Can we follow Christ is loving and forgiving those who are “wrong,” knowing that since we’re not perfect, we may be wrong also. You don’t have to be always right to follow Jesus, but you always have to be loving and forgiving. When disagreements arise, we may even go our separate ways and that’s OK. Pray for each other and head out with the sole purpose of spreading the gospel. God will work through our disagreements if we don’t hinder Him.
Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You. When fellow Christians see things differently, help me to love them and pray for them as they head off to do Your work in a different way.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved