I’m sure you’ve never fought. Ever. With anyone. I’m sure that you’ve never raised your voice or yelled in anger or frustration. Ever. At anyone.
Paul was strong-willed and opinionated. Barnabas was a person who seemed to always be the forgiving type. He was known as an encourager.
Paul and Barnabas had been on mission together. They had been in trouble together. They had seen God’s glory together. They had seen the Holy Spirit move people. By all accounts, they were successful missionary partners.
From Paul’s letters, we know that he really cared about the people gathered into the churches. There was probably a strong motivation to make sure they were okay and hadn’t fallen prey (again) to non-Christians (both Jew and Gentile).
Then we come to Mark. It is unclear why Mark had left them in Pamphylia. Based on context, some commentators believe that Mark left Paul (going to Jerusalem) because Mark didn’t believe that Gentiles should not have ties to Judaism. The thought process was that Paul would not have been so opposed to Mark if it had not been something serious (versus being young and unaccustomed to travel, as other commentators have said).
Here is where we see the division. Barnabas and Paul were not opposing each other regarding the mission (i.e., they were united). One could even say their disagreement proved that they both believed in the mission. What they disagreed on was Mark’s part in the mission.
They couldn’t agree. They parted ways.
Paul’s character was sharp and straightforward (one might say similar to an oncoming train). Barnabas was the type who sought to lift others up. What is interesting here is that Barnabas chose to “lift up” Mark, despite Paul’s insistence.
Whether in church, work, or home, there will be times where people do not agree in approach. All too often, the only option seems to be separation. Yet, when two such “opposites” sharpen each other, that which comes from it will often be greater than the only one. The trick is how to make it happen.
We do know this, though. Mark and Paul were reconciled. Mark and Timothy (Paul’s protege) became ministry partners.
- Have you ever seen two people whose goal is the same, but their methods are different? How did that go?
- What does it take for two people of significantly different approaches to try to work together?
- If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, are you more like Paul or like Barnabas?
Lord, we can quickly fall apart on our differences. Help us to take these differences to make a symphony for you. Amen.