“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
Acts 15:39 (NIV)
As a much younger, and possibly very naïve minister, I was charged with the responsibility of organizing the annual pastors’ conference for our denomination. Not realising it would provoke the ire of some officials within the denomination, I invited a couple of speakers from a different denomination to attend the conference and share their wisdom with our pastors.
I caught a lot of flack from my superiors for straying from the fold in choosing those particular men to speak. In my youthful stubborn manner, I kept to my objectives and the men came. A wonderful conference was experienced by all who attended. The speakers graciously steered clear of anything where we differed and blessed us greatly by sharing the Bible with us. I licked my wounds and learned the lesson that Christians can be very intolerant of other Christians.
I have had the sad responsibility over the years of trying to bind up the wounds of Christians who have been shunned by their own church members, others who have had untrue lies and gossip spread by their fellow believers, or in other ways been hurt deeply. Some of these people have been so damaged by other people they have given up on the church altogether. They have fled from the very organization that should have accepted them as they were and protected them.
When we read our verse today it is found in the middle of a dispute between Paul and Barnabas, two giants of the infant church. Barnabas wished to take along John Mark on their journey to the new churches they had planted. Paul objected because fainthearted John Mark had quit on the previous journey when the going got tough. John Mark had let them down once and Paul did not wish a second disappointment.
Barnabas was the man who got Paul into the Jerusalem church in the first place when everyone distrusted Paul (Acts 9:26-28). When Paul had to flee to Tarsus for his life it was Barnabas who got him back into the thick of the work at Antioch (Acts 9:29-30; 11:25-26). So Barnabas was a man who loved to provide people with opportunity to do good. Paul was happy to have Barnabas help him when he was suspect by the churches but when Barnabas tried to do for John Mark exactly what he had done for Paul, the great apostle refused to hear of it.
Sadly the two great men parted in anger. They would never work together again and there is no record of them meeting again either. Who was in the right? We may never know this side of heaven. But the irony of the matter is that the man Paul rejected in life, John Mark, was the very man he called for in death. “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV)
And to whom must Paul give thanks for making John Mark the kind of man you want with you when facing death? Why Barnabas, the man he fought with over John Mark.
Possibly you have been rejected like John Mark over some mistake in your Christian life, now is the time to make something of yourself like John Mark. Who knows, you may bless the very person who rejected you. Are you someone who has spurned another Christian? Be careful, you may end up like Paul and call out in death for the person you rejected in life.