Note from Jesus
What do you do when the leaders in your church don’t get along? Do you divide up into different camps and deepen the disagreement? Or, do you spend time with one another in careful, biblical, Spirit-led discussion of the issues? Do you recognize that some disagreements are matters of people’s different missions and particular responsibilities to answer My call? How do you know what to do about these kinds of issues and when to do it?
The same Holy Spirit that guided the church to come to an understanding of the Gentile issue in the first part of Acts chapter 15 was also at work to guide the church through the break-up of Paul and Barnabas’ working together as a mission team.
Barnabas was an encourager. That was his nature. That was his giftedness — and was even in the meaning of his name, which was given to him by the apostles (Acts 4:36). When Paul suggested to Barnabas that they go back to visit the churches where they had taught on their previous mission, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them as they had done previously. However, Paul did not want to take John Mark because he had deserted them during their previous mission (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37-38). The result was that Barnabas and Paul had a heated difference of opinion. However, their difference of opinion was over the best way to accomplish My mission.
Notice what you don’t hear happening in the early church over this issue:
- The churches in Jerusalem, Judea, Antioch, and Galatia didn’t divide over whether Barnabas was right or Paul was right. There was too much work to do to allow the momentum of the church to be destroyed because Barnabas and Paul had a different sense of how to accomplish My mission.
- Paul and Barnabas didn’t go around bad-mouthing each other. What Paul wrote a short time later in one of his letters showed no animosity toward Barnabas and suggested respect for Barnabas’ ministry (1 Corinthians 9:6). We also know that Paul later reconciled with John Mark (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24) and asked for John Mark to come to him when he was near the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul and Barnabas each stuck to his own convictions. Each pursued his own calling. However, neither felt it was necessary to put down the other. As Paul would say to the Corinthians:
Rather than power brokers, think of us as servants of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, caretakers of the mysteries of God. Because we are in this particular role, it is especially important that we are people of fidelity and integrity. It makes little difference to me how you or any human court passes judgment on me. I even resist the temptation to compare myself to the ever-changing human standard. Although I am not aware of any flaw that might exclude me from this divine service, that’s not the reason I stand acquitted — the only supreme judge, our Lord, will examine me in the proper time. So resist the temptation to act as judges before all the evidence is in.
(1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
- The churches didn’t hyperventilate over this problem. There was no exaggerated language that made this issue bigger than it really was. You don’t hear about Paul and Barnabas having saved the church from dividing or being criticized as hypocrites for not being able to keep the peace among themselves. The disciples didn’t go around wringing their hands because this great mission team split over what to do about a young missionary who abandoned them on their first journey.
The early church let Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways, permitting each to answer his own call from Me to reach the nations and to train others to do the same. Barnabas took John Mark and continued on his mission. John Mark was given a second chance. He was strengthened through his relationship with Barnabas, and Barnabas restored him to useful service to the brotherhood and even to Paul.
Paul took Silas with him on his mission and raised up another powerful missionary leader. Paul’s work with other young disciples followed Barnabas’ example (as well as My example) of mentoring and growing future leaders. The world was blessed by having two great mission teams, led by two passionate but different types of leaders, and more future missionaries were trained by each one.
So please hear the lesson of this important time in the early church. Don’t make disagreements among church leaders about how to carry out My mission more than they really are. Passionate disciples with unique gifts and a very clear sense of My call in their lives will have differences in opinion, strategy, and style. Some of those opinions, strategies, and styles are going to clash. This conflict doesn’t mean that they are bad. This lack of harmony doesn’t mean that one is right and the others are wrong.
Yes, I want My disciples to live in unity, and Paul and Barnabas clearly ministered in unity with each other. Don’t define unity as meaning that everyone thinks the same thing. However, understand that unity does mean that My disciples must love each other, respect each other, and give each other the opportunity to serve Me and live out My mission with passion and focus. You don’t give up on or scandalize another disciple because he or she disagrees with you, or with someone you respect, over strategy or a personal sense of calling. Give grace to each other as you share grace with the lost using the grace I have given you to minister!
Verses to Live
The following text is a short report on Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement. As Luke writes Acts, he wants you to know this happened. The small number of words and the lack of emphasis on this disagreement show you how little their split impacted the brotherhood as a whole. Don’t let Satan make differences over strategy, over a personal sense of calling, or over personal style into bigger issues that destroy My people!
Some days later, Paul proposed another journey to Barnabas.
Let’s return and visit the believers in each city where we preached the Lord’s message last time to see how they’re doing.
Barnabas agreed and wanted to bring John Mark along, but Paul felt that was a mistake since John Mark had abandoned them in Pamphylia and hadn’t finished the previous mission. Their difference of opinion was so heated that they decided not to work together anymore. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas as his companion. The believers in Antioch commissioned him for this work, entrusting him to the grace of the Lord. They traveled through Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there.
Response in Prayer
O Father, give me a passion to serve You with devotion and focus. Give me the grace to allow others to serve You differently than I do. Use each of us to share Your grace with our fallen world. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
© 1998-2017, Heartlight, Inc. ‘A Year with Jesus‘ is part of the Heartlight Network.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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