Acts 15: 36 – 41
Paul and Barnabas had been together for a while now. They were both leaders in the church who had started a church together, gone on a long journey starting multiple churches, and suffered together at the hands of religious authorities as they tried to fulfill the great commission. They were good men. They loved each other. They didn’t always agree though. In this small passage, we see they disagree about a guy named Mark. Paul wanted to leave Mark behind because he had left them earlier at one of their journeys. However, Barnabas wanted to take him. Paul ended up going with Silas and Barnabas ended up going with Mark.
They went different places, and took different people, and continued the work of God.
It’s hard when you disagree with someone. I think it’s important to note how this was handled. They disagreed sharply about Mark, but both men knew their disagreement was about preference. They didn’t have a falling out. They didn’t hate each other. Neither man was right or wrong. They just disagreed. So Paul went and did his thing, while Barnabas did his. The gospel spread twice as far because of this.
We’ve got to get to the place where we see the difference between issues of division and issues of preference. The unity of the church is such an important part of God’s plan that we far too often compromise over small and simple disagreements. We leave churches and people because of things we don’t like and not things that hurt the gospel. We join churches because they cater to our needs instead of doing the work of the gospel. We’ll raise all sorts of hands and send emails and schedule meetings over whether or not we do donuts on Sunday morning but forget to invite those who don’t know Jesus to our gatherings. We’re just petty sometimes.
I’m not saying there is no reason to leave. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go our separate ways like Paul and Barnabas did, but I bet you they still prayed for each other. They probably sent letters. They still cared. This wasn’t a falling out, there was no bitterness, they simply disagreed and realized the unity of the gospel wasn’t worth their preferences. What are you holding onto?
The unity of the church, the way we have love one for another, is how we as a church show Jesus to the world. What bitterness, anger and preferences are you allowing to take that away?