Paul and Barnabas were a great missionary team. On their first tour, a young man named John Mark had joined them. But it seems he had grown homesick and returned to Jerusalem. On their second missionary tour, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them again, but Paul said no. “Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark…Paul chose Silas” (vv. 39-40 NLT). Can you imagine it; two spiritual giants couldn’t resolve their conflict! Yes, it happens in the best of circles. Paul was the totally focused, no-nonsense type. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” was the long-suffering and lovable type who believed in reconciliation and refused to strike anybody off his list. There are two valuable lessons in this story about handling disagreements. (1) When it comes to our friends and family members, we all have blind spots. Rare is the leader who has the objectivity to look beyond a blood bond and focus on what is best for the organization. As a result, the vision God gave them often suffers. (2) Sometimes you need a wise and trusted third party to help resolve the problem. When it comes to trouble in the church, Jesus laid down clear guidelines. First, you must go privately, one on one, and deal with the issue. Second, if that doesn’t work, you should take one or two others with you and try to resolve it. Third, you must take the situation to mature spiritual leaders and get their input (See Matthew 18:15-18). That’s the scriptural way to handle disagreements, and it must be our way too.
“Barnabas…wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly.”
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