The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
After a great time of victory and harmony it is easy to fall into dissension. That is exactly what happens in Acts 15:36-41. We see that, after encouraging Christians, Paul and Barnabas are interested in making a tour to encourage other believers. They want to see how they are doing. That’s a fine idea. It ought to be done, done well, and done often.
Who is going to go on the tour? That’s a more difficult question. Barnabas wants John Mark to go with them. Paul, remembering that Mark had stepped away from the work he was doing with them in the past, does not trust him as a traveling companion. Mark is related to Barnabas. We can easily see the tensions rising.
Some might suggest that these arguments are a good thing. I have heard sermons suggesting that there are people in our lives, including our relatives, who we need to get rid of. They would hold back the work of God. I have even heard teaching that this would apply even to spouses, parents, and children, calling the relationships toxic and best left behind. After all, if you want to engage in ministry in a certain way and your husband doesn’t think you should go plant the mega church and be the pastrix, you should divorce him and go do it anyway. That’s toxic teaching. It’s a wrong-headed, false, sinful way of looking at our relationships. When Jesus died to reconcile us to God and to use us in reconciliation to one another, how dare we try to break families apart?
A more balanced, redeeming view of this passage is that God can use our dissensions to the good of his kingdom. Even though Paul and Barnabas should have been reconciled and settled their dispute, God used their dispute to send them in different directions and bring comfort to people in more places. Paul and Mark were eventually reconciled with one another. Paul and Silas had a fruitful ministry, as did Barnabas and Mark. God used even the sinful dispute for the good of his kingdom. Our prayer, then, is that we may be reconciled to one another. Secondly, while we are seeking reconciliation, we pray that we may be of use in the kingdom of God. All is well.
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