Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company and Barnabas took Mark, with him and sailed off to Cyprus. But Paul took Silas and departed… (Acts 15:37-39)
I love the honesty of the Holy Spirit through Luke in writing the raw truth in this passage. Two men who loved each other and loved Jesus with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength… disagreed. Both had their eyes on the Cross, yet they got cross-eyed with each other. Ministry multiplied and the Kingdom expanded, but still, two Apostles disagreed to the point of separating.
While in Mexico in 2018, the Lord spoke a word to me through a Pastor from England. We had never met, yet the word from the Lord through him was crystal clear and confirming. The Lord called me a Barnabas leader in the church – one who loves and restores people who are called and gifted, yet who make mistakes, as EVERYBODY does.
John Mark, who wrote the Gospel we are currently reading with our Life Journals, was wrong to bug out in the middle of a mission trip. No doubt, the way was difficult, and Mark felt overwhelmed. But to bail out because he “hadn’t signed up for this,” or because “I never heard God call me to this,” or “there’s a conference I need to attend first” spoke of an immaturity and an inability to commit that Jesus confronted in those who came to Him but “had” to take care of other stuff first. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:60).
But Jesus also restored Peter, after multiple breakdowns. As a Barnabas, I’m called to love and restore those who made a bad decision—or 10,000—but have returned (returned is a key word here!) to give their lives for the Gospel. Mark proved his worth under Barnabas’s covering, even as Silas did with Paul.
Was Paul wrong? No, he was not. Paul saw things with more of a black-and-white kind of mind, even as Barnabas was able to see the gray. Both were right, and both were wrong—yet somehow God made right and righteous out of both!
What is funny, as I age, is that I see and admire the clarity of a black-and-white mind much more so then I used to, even as I recognize that my gray way of thinking sometimes enables people to never grab hold of the Kingdom plow fully. I suspect, with a little time and distance, that Barnabas realized that Paul was thinking clearly, even as Paul realized that Barnabas was, too. Especially in Paul’s life, we see a little more “gray/grace” and a little less “black-and-white is right” thinking as he aged. He called for Mark in his old age to come and work with him. He found himself able to see and embrace the contradictions that none-the-less could help him get to Rome.
Both Apostles NEVER took their eyes off the Cross of Christ or off His Face. They saw differently, yet they both saw clearly. Neither departed from the Gospel (as much of the American church is doing in our day), yet they saw the true and pure Gospel enough differently, at least in the heat of a disagreement, to go different ways. There is much to learn in our hearts from these two but know that I will always come at things with a bit of Barnabas bias, even as many I work with are gifted more like Paul was!