Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. But Paul wouldn’t have him; he wasn’t about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, went to Syria and Cilicia to build up muscle and sinew in those congregations. Acts 15:37-41 (TM)
I live in the town of Pella, Iowa. Many people view our pretty little burg as a virtual postcard. The town was founded in 1847 by a Pastor and his congregation. They were Dutch immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Holland, and they created Pella as their "city of refuge". Today, our little Dutch colony continues to thrive complete with picturesque town square, lots of flowers, and well kept houses and lawn. Each year we host a Tulip Festival which attracts visitors from around the world.
A few years ago I was given a book called Iowa Letters. In it, letters between the founders of Pella and their family back in Holland have been translated and reprinted. I was shocked as I read these letters. The story revealed was not the picture postcard image we tell to Tulip Time visitors each year. There was hardship, conflict, hard words and division among the early immigrants. Dominie Scholte, the pastor who led the first group of immigrants to the Iowa prairie, is fondly remembered today in idealistic terms. In his day, he was regarded as a charlitan and scoundrel. Angry immigrants warned their family not to come to America and some even returned back to Holland.
We tend to sanitize history as the years roll by. Today, I hear pastors and teachers regularly teach from Acts 2 where "all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met." It presents an ideal for us to attain, but it also tends to present an incomplete picture of the early church, where "tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways."
The church is made up of flawed human beings who see things differently, who clash, and who sometimes go their separate ways. It always has been this way. It always will be this way this side of eternity. Each of us are called, in the midst of the conflicts of human reality, to keep loving, keep forgiving and keep seeking to be more like Jesus each day.