Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:37-41 ESV)
Paul and Barnabas had faithfully ministered together. They were both friends and ministry partners, and their newest venture together was that they would, “Return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:36) Here, though, even between two renowned men of God, was “sharp disagreement.” In fact, the disagreement was heated enough that they “separated from each other.”
This passage communicates two things:
1. We should not shrink from conflict. We must be willing to deal with issues that arise between us, rather than bury them, hoping they’ll go away. In fact, this is Jesus’ prescription for conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15.
2. The reality that conflict exists in a situation does not mean God is not at work there. The Holy Spirit works through fallen, imperfect humans. This means that if impurities exist in the work, don’t blame the source, blame the vessels who themselves are impure. We bring baggage and debris of all kinds into our relationships, but we are still the method by which God has chosen to bear witness to the Gospel of Grace.
The Church is not a frictionless surface, so to speak. Even amongst those pursuing God’s call upon their lives there will be strife. But, conflict can be resolved in a Biblical way that the Lord’s will may still be done in and through us. Be encouraged and strengthened to resolve conflict in the Church. Paul eventually came around to accepting Mark and mentions what a help he is to him (2 Timothy 4:11).
Where have you shrank back from conflict with a brother or sister in Christ?