After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. Acts 15:36-41 (NLT)
Like many couples, my wife and I are opposites in many ways. These polar personality traits serve multiple purposes. As a couple, our diverse strengths complement one another and make us more effective as a team in our circles of influence. Our differences also have the long-term effect of sharpening one another. I am reminded however, that when you put a blade on the grinding wheel to sharpen it, sparks fly. Hang out with Wendy and me for any length of time and you’ll see sparks flying as our differences hone our respective personalities towards a more effective edge for God to use. Humans with starkly contrasting personality types, perspectives and giftedness will create sparks of conflict when they interact with one another. It’s a natural result of the human equation.
The theme through today’s entire chapter is conflict:
- Two men came from Jerusalem proclaiming something that stirred confusion and conflict among the community.
- Paul and Barnabas argue with them.
- Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem where factions rose up around the issue.
- More conflict follows the leaders make a decision that was clearly unpopular with some.
- Paul and Barnabas have a heated argument over a previous conflict between Paul and John Mark, a former member of their team.
- Paul and Barnabas split up and travel in opposite directions.
Conflicts are going to happen. The real issue is how we respond when they do happen. We can let them tear us apart, or we can work through them so that they positively shape us and make us more effective people – even if we choose to walk away in separate directions.