Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
This week I want to finish up my extended study of the New Testament character Barnabas. Over the last nine weeks I have been expounding upon nearly every mention of his name in the Book of Acts. You can find a running commentary at https://wsfc.org/connect/blog/.
I sincerely like this guy. I have modeled much of my life after him – he is called the Son of Encouragement (4:36) – and throughout the Book of Acts we find him going from place to place doing just that!
I want the same to be said of my life: “That John Fehlen, he’s a real Son of Encouragement.” (I guess it beats the alternative!).
In Acts 15:36-41 we find the last mention of Barnabas, but this time the context is not so positive.
Or is it? Let’s look…
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 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 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.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.
This passage of Scripture gives us a helpful response to personal failures and fractured relationships. These things happen. That can’t be avoided. But they can be properly handled.
Quick history lesson:
• John Mark is Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10).
• John Mark was a part of the 1st Missionary Journey but didn’t want to continue on for some reason. The Bible doesn’t say why. We do know that in Acts 13:13 John Mark hopped off the Holy Ghost Tour bus and returned to Jerusalem.
• At the start of the 2nd Missionary Journey, Barnabas asked if John Mark could rejoin them, and Paul had distinct misgivings. He opted to bring Silas with him, whereas Barnabas partnered up with John Mark (Acts 15:39,40). The remainder of the Book of Acts (as well as the majority of the New Testament) chronicles the activities of Paul and Silas, but very little is said about Barnabas or John Mark.
So, what do we make of all this?
I want to make two points of application:
1. Split Happens.
I know this is a play on words, and I certainly am not wanting to be offensive, but rather, make a memorable point as to the reality of fractured relationships. Splits are a part of life. Not everyone is going to get along all the time. We are not a utopian society in which we all tip-toe through the tulips singing Kum-ba-yah. That’s simply not reality. We are fallen, sinful, and broken. As the saying goes: “Hurt people, hurt people.”
But, having said that, hear me clearly: we CAN be civil and kind. Relationships don’t have to end in anger, gossip, and venomous Facebook posts! We can biblically and rationally handle our issues one to another. This is what I see in Acts 15:36-41.
Paul felt like John Mark had abandoned them at a very important time. In verse 39 we read that Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.” This was unfortunate, but it’s reality. Split happens. Notice though that it wasn’t mean-spirited or cruel. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on things and they decided to part ways, but we never read about them disparaging one another, speaking out lies or bemoaning their heart, motives or salvation.
Church, why is it that we, within the Body of Christ, have yet to learn this very well? We tend to shoot our wounded. We often push individuals or groups down in order to make ourselves look better? Admittedly, some of the meanest people I’ve ever encountered have been Christians. This ought not be.
2. Seasons Change.
The second observation that I find in the saga of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark is that after a stretch of time there was a restoration of relationship. Seasons change. Not everything stays the same way forever. Perhaps you had a split happen in a particular relationship, and now is the time for healing and reconnection.
Two passages in the New Testament give us an indication that the seasons of ministry indeed did change for those involved:
Colossians 4:10 – Paul commends the church in Colossea to receive and welcome John Mark.
2 Timothy 4:11 – Paul tells Timothy to send John Mark to him because “he is very useful to me for ministry.”
Did you catch that? There was once a split but now we read of a commendation and reconnection. Paul continued to speak kindly regarding John Mark and as well, discovered that he was helpful and actually useful. In other words: seasons changed. With the changing of seasons we see things clearer and differently. Someone who hurt us in the past may now be an asset OR….wait for it…perhaps a…friend!