Bible Ballistics: Vol. 8 No.15 I Disagree!!! Now What???
We all encounter times of disagreement, but how do we handle this as believers and followers of Jesus. Does scripture address this difficulty? I believe it does, and I’d like to spend just a bit of time today looking at some scriptures for us to consider in light of this question.
First off I’d like us to consider a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas—and it was a dispute about ministry; one from which I think we can learn a lot, for the short term and the long term. First we must consider the context; Paul and Barnabas had been on their first missionary journey and were united in their love for the Lord, and His call upon them to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world. First and foremost they each had the call of God on their lives.
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord,
the Holy Ghost said,
for the work
whereunto I have
3 And when they had
and laid their hands on them,
they sent them away.
4 So they,
being sent forth by the Holy Ghost,
departed unto Seleucia;
and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
5 And when they were at Salamis,
they preached the word of God
in the synagogues of the Jews:
and they had also John
to their minister.” Acts 13:1-5
(And note that “John” here, is the same John Mark/Mark referred to in the following passages.)
God called Paul and Barnabas, and they set out to follow the Lord’s call and to obey the commission of the Holy Spirit, as well as the church at Antioch. They took John Mark with them on their journey, but he turned back shortly after they started out. This failure of John Mark (We don’t know the reason for John Mark’s return) had a great impact upon Paul. Paul and Barnabas had an extensive first missionary journey and then returned to the church at Antioch, to report and regroup. When the time seemed right, they endeavored to continue their journeys and check on the churches they had begun, but then a disagreement arose between them.
“Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
37 And Barnabas determined
to take with them John,
whose surname was Mark.
38 But Paul thought
not good to take him with them,
who departed from them
and went not with them
to the work.
39 And the contention was so sharp
that they departed asunder
one from the other:
and so Barnabas took Mark,
and sailed unto Cyprus;
40 And Paul chose Silas,
being recommended by the brethren
unto the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria
confirming the churches.” Acts 15:35-41
Did you get that? Scripture says of them, “the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other”!!! The disagreement was so intense that they separated. But isn’t it wrong to divide/separate? I don’t think so, for there are just times when we face differences of opinion and conviction that are just incompatible with each other;(See Amos 3:3) and to minister intimately with someone else we must be able to agree on the important things, and “staff” is one of the most important things which those in ministry grapple with—the ability to join together for the good of the kingdom. So what was the outcome for Paul and Barnabas?
Well, the immediate outcome is that two teams went out in the service of God rather than one. Paul chose Silas and Barnabas took Mark and departed in a different direction from Paul. I think we see these two personalities in a conflict that was unresolvable for whatever reason, and we know from scripture that Barnabas was an encourager (See Acts 4:36). He had come along side “Saul” when no one wanted to have anything to do with him, and helped him to find acceptance in the fellowship of the first church (Remember he had been a persecutor of believers before his conversion to faith in Jesus.) In contrast, we have the fiery Paul, full of zeal and uncompromising ardor. He couldn’t deal with the apparent immaturity of John Mark, and give him a second chance—uncompromisingly so!!! Barnabas on the other hand, as the great encourager, saw great potential in John Mark, and wanted to be a part of mentoring and growing this young man into a valuable servant for the Lord Jesus Christ. So what happened to Mark and Barnabas?
While we don’t know the details, we do know that this same young man later penned the Gospel of Mark. We also know that later in life even Paul had a change of heart toward what this young man had become—likely due to the commitment of Barnabas to Mark at the cost of his joint ministry with his great friend and brother, Paul. And even Paul himself affirms the outcome of this ministry of Barnabas’ devotion to being the encourager that God called and equipped him to be. Even as Paul fulfilled the ministry that God called him to, he also, prior to his death, publicly (in his letter) affirmed the value of this same John Mark.
“Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
So what do we learn from this? I think we can surmise that sometimes God allows us to experience divisions that will benefit the whole, while often being painful to the immediate participants. Separation is frequently painful, but we must consider what God is doing, and trust HIM to accomplish HIS purpose for us and those that we may be caused to separate from. God may be doing something that we can’t yet see!!!
Jesus reminded his own disciples of this human desire to require compliance beyond what God requires. Just because someone doesn’t do it like we do, that may or may not mean they are wrong. Unless it’s a “Thus sayeth The Lord”, we need to examine the import of the issue that we are using as a measuring stick toward others. After all they may be measuring us by a different ruler as well. Let’s stand on the Word and let the Word stand for itself. Let’s see what Jesus said, when faced with a similar situation.
“And John answered and said,
we saw one casting out devils
in thy name;
and we forbad him,
because he followeth
not with us.
50 And Jesus said unto him,
Forbid him not:
for he that is not against us
is for us.” Luke 9:49-50
The very disciples of Jesus thought everyone had to be in their group to be “in the right”. But Jesus said to let their words and actions speak for themselves; if they are in tune with Jesus and The Word of God on the foundational issues, if they are solid on the side of Jesus, then we are not to “forbid” them. Truth will become evident if they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. If they are working in the “name” of Jesus, we are to take it to Jesus and let God be God. (I am NOT referring to blatant and open heresy or outright false teaching that contradicts the Word of God!)
But there are also times when people will disagree with us for standing on God’s truth, and following the leading of our God through His Holy Spirit, and the His Word. Then we must keep on following Jesus and discern (divide) truth just like Jeremiah was told by God, “if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them”! There is that which is precious to God, and that is to be our bedrock, and not the “vile”. Consider Jeremiah’s situation. Have you been there? Are you there now? God has a plan, and if it involves separation—let God take care of it.
“Thy words were found,
and I did eat them;
and thy word was unto me
the joy and rejoicing
of mine heart:
for I am called by thy name,
O Lord God of hosts.
17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers,
I sat alone because of thy hand:
for thou hast filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain perpetual,
and my wound incurable,
which refuseth to be healed?
wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar,
and as waters that fail?
19 Therefore thus saith the Lord,
If thou return,
then will I bring thee again,
and thou shalt stand before me:
and if thou take forth the precious
from the vile,
thou shalt be as my mouth:
let them return unto thee;
but return not thou unto them.
20 And I will make thee unto this people
a fenced brasen wall:
and they shall fight against thee,
but they shall not prevail
for I am with thee
to save thee
and to deliver thee,
saith the Lord.
21 And I will deliver thee
out of the hand of the wicked,
and I will redeem thee
out of the hand of the terrible.” Jeremiah 15:16-21
Oh praise HIS dear name!!! When we are walking with God, and walking in HIS way, we may face intense opposition from the world, from family, from co-workers, from those we love the most—but God has promised to be with us and deliver us. Yet we are to be grounded and rest on God’s sovereignty. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet because he preached to a people for some 40 years, with a broken heart, with little response, much rejection, ridicule as well as persecution and imprisonment. What about us?
There are also issues that we may differ on for which we must allow grace, things that are subject to personal understanding, maturity, personality and giftings. Paul gives us great advise in this regard in Romans 14.
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,
but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth
that he may eat all things:
another, who is weak,
3 Let not him that eateth
despise him that eateth not;
and let not him which eateth not
judge him that eateth:
for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest
another man’s servant?
to his own master
Yea, he shall be holden up:
for God is able
to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another:
another esteemeth every day alike.
Let every man be fully persuaded
in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day,
regardeth it unto the Lord;
and he that regardeth not the day,
to the Lord he doth not regard it.
He that eateth,
eateth to the Lord,
for he giveth God thanks;
and he that eateth not,
to the Lord he eateth not,
and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live,
we live unto the Lord;
and whether we die,
we die unto the Lord:
whether we live therefore,
we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ both died,
that he might be Lord
both of the dead
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother?
or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?
for we shall all stand
before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written,
As I live,
saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess
12 So then every one of us
shall give account
to God.” Romans 14:1-12
So the question isn’t, “Do we agree on everything?” But “Are we ready to give an account?” Are we seeking the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” as we walk the Christian life in purity and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. I’d simply like to close this article with Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians:
the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you that ye walk worthy
of the vocation
wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness
forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep
the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-6