Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas.
The apostles and elders in Jerusalem choose delegates to send to Antioch in Syria, with Paul and Barnabas to report their decision. They take a letter to confirm the decision concerning the rules for Gentile converts.
The people in Antioch rejoice when they hear the encouraging news. Paul and Barnabas stay there for some time.
After a while, Paul suggests to Barnabas that they retrace their steps to encourage the believers in the places they previously visited. They have a quarrel because Barnabas wants to take John Mark, but Paul does not want this. They ultimately go separate ways.
We often see the early church through rose coloured glasses, and it can come as a shock when normal human behaviour creeps in.
Paul and Barnabas had made a great team, but now they separate over the issue of whether they should take John Mark with them. John Mark has previously accompanied Paul, but had left him at Pamphylia. Paul had felt abandoned and didn’t want to take him on again. Barnabas the encourager asked to give him a second chance.
We can hold very deep convictions that can sometimes lead to arguments; yet God can be in the midst of this. In this situation, one team was broken up and two new teams were formed, giving valuable experience to John Mark and to Silas.
When christians differ we need to make sure that we do so in a way that honours God.
Many arguments are over trivial issues. We need to ask, “is this an issue to die for?” If it is truly a trivial issue we can, and should, back off.
We need to separate issues from people. We can love those we disagree with. Let’s get past the immediate differences of opinion and love one another with the love of the Lord.
When we argue we should continue to honour our opponents. These days it seems that arguments can quickly degenerate to name calling. Jesus calls us to be better than that.
Lord Jesus it is inevitable that there will be disagreements among your people. Please help me to love those I disagree with, and help us all to find your way through topics of diverging opinions. Amen.