Fights in the faith, contention in the church pews, mayhem in the ministry…they make me nauseous. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been involved in confrontation with someone else in the ministry. I do not have enough fingers and toes in the whole family, including cousins (and there are many) to tell you the times I have bitten my tongue off to keep from saying hurtful things, or walked away rather than battle it out. That’s not because I’m all “holy and happy”, but rather the fact that I’ll avoid conflict at every opportunity because I hate it so much. So as I’ve been in a study of Barnabas and Paul, their friendly fallout caught my attention.
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Here were two friends in the faith who had worked side by side, fought the fight of good faith, ministered to one another and now stood toe to toe in disagreement about the direction of their ministry. Not the color of the carpet, who’s in charge of what committee, or why Susie Seat Saver wasn’t selected for the choir special. This contention was over Barnabas desiring to use Mark in the ministry, and Paul’s determination not to because of Mark’s prior record of failure. It wasn’t a tiff, it was a sharp contention according to scripture that caused them to part company. It’s also an unfished story in the Bible, leaving us to wonder if the fence was ever mended between these two men of God.
That bothered me; even though there’s little I could do about. It did however cause me to re-visit some past “parting of company” of my own which was ironic because Paul and Barnabas’s parting was over their decision to revisit the churches they had planted and encourage those ministries. That trip didn’t happen as planned but other trips did. Paul went on his second missionary journey teamed with Silas and Barnabas and Mark went their way. The unity was still there, but the uniformity had gone. They didn’t do it the way they always had. It doesn’t say in the scripture that anyone else was brought into their argument to take sides, but rather focus’ on the fact that their division was an expansion of the ministry not a separation. I’m inclined to believe from Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 4:11 that there was no animosity betwixt them when he wrote to Timothy, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” Paul had obviously forgiven Mark for his discrepancy leading me to believe that Paul and Barnabas either patched it up or agreed to disagree. Both Paul and Barnabas continued on in unity of the original mission. As I reflected on this today it was a reminder to me to mind my own ministry. In the case of disagreements which may come and its okay, move on. Don’t dwell on the negative, but love one another and preach Jesus!
Our goal is to see souls saved. Satan’s job is to thwart that any cost. I don’t want to be a pawn in his hand causing someone’s eye to focus on me instead of the Master.