Acts 15:36-41 – Intense Argument

Some time later, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit all the brothers and sisters in every city where we preached the Lord’s word. Let’s see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them.  Paul insisted that they shouldn’t take him along, since he had deserted them in Pamphylia and hadn’t continued with them in their work. Their argument became so intense that they went their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and left, entrusted by the brothers and sisters to the Lord’s grace. He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Common English Bible)
 
            Having continual consensus, complete harmony, and perpetual peaceful relationships are ideals, not reality.  Oh, it’s not that we ought not to strive for such things – it’s just that they aren’t going to be fully realized this side of heaven.
            Imagine if Paul and Barnabas, along with their entire coterie of people who traveled with them, decided that they wouldn’t go anywhere until there was 100% consensus on every decision to be made. It could be that they would never get anything done at all.  It’s sad when people can’t come together and be of one mind, but it happens now and will happen in the future.  Sometimes you just need to go do what you think is the best and right thing to do and step out and do it, whether others agree with you or not.
            I’m a bit adverse to taking sides on most things, but I admit to having a bent toward going with Barnabas.  His name means “Son of Encouragement.” He understands taking someone under his wing and giving them a second chance when they screw up.  Barnabas had a soft spot for John Mark.  Barnabas seems like the kind of guy who knows about grace.  This is a guy I could hang out with.
            Paul, on the other hand, has much more of a Type A personality.  He doesn’t have time for whiners or cry-babies.  There are things to do, goals to reach, areas to conquer.  Paul didn’t need someone in the group slowing them down with fear or lack of courage.  For all that I appreciate about Paul in the New Testament, sometimes he strikes me as being too driven and difficult to work with.
            Yet, in the end, taking sides isn’t really the issue.  It’s about God working his sovereign and good will through stubborn and stupid people like me, and maybe like you, who sometimes get lost in winning an argument.  Nothing is going to thwart God’s providential plans and purposes in this world.  So, rather than taking sides, I think I’ll rely solely on God’s grace and mercy in my life to work through me, despite my too often short-sightedness.

 

Holy God, you work your good purposes in and through your people, no matter what.  I want my life and work to be a joy to you and with others, and not a burden.  Create in me a clean heart.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting; through Jesus Christ, my Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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