April 8 I Monday
1 Samuel 10-12
“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.” —Acts 15:39-40
What happens when personalities collide, priorities clash and two parties are both convinced in principle they are right? Both Paul and Barnabas were good men, legendary heroes of the New Testament Church, and had worked together for years, but good men fall out sometimes.
Paul was adamantly opposed to bringing Mark on their second missionary journey after Mark abandoned the first one. Barnabas, however, insisted Mark come, and it became such a sharp dispute that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. These were two conscientious men. Both wanted to do the right thing but were now faced with an issue that many people in leadership roles eventually face. Is the work bigger than the individuals performing it, or are the individuals more important than the work? Do we compromise the work for the sake of caring for an individual on the task, or does the importance of the work override the lack of ability in that individual?
Paul places the work first and Barnabas the individual first. Paul is a straight shooter, direct, focused and committed. He’s a “Type A” personality and a task-oriented man. Barnabas is people-oriented. His name means “Son of Encouragement.” He looks after the underdog, a caring, nurturing, pastoral role. He played that role in Paul’s life and wanted to do the same for Mark.
The question is who was right? Paul actually gives us the answer. In Romans 14, he talks about when one person thinks differently from another and that if they are both conscientiously doing this as “unto the Lord,” they are both right. When both parties are obediently acting out of a genuine trust in God, Paul says, “Let each one follow the path they believe is right.” If Paul had been like Barnabas, perhaps he would never have blazed a trail through Europe, and if Barnabas had been like Paul, we might never have had the Gospel of Mark, and he may never have gone to Tarsus to enlist Paul in the first place.
Most of us prefer a neatly connected story where there is either black or white, but sometimes we need to live with a little grey. The message here is that personality is not obliterated when we come to Christ. People having different personalities and perspectives is good as long as we live conscientiously before God. These differences of opinion might even deepen our relationships and enrich them. Paul and Mark, for example, eventually reconciled and became close fellow workers again in Asia Minor. There will always be differences of opinion in the church, but it will be for the good when we respect one another and entrust the outcome of those differences to our head–Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, grant me Your wisdom to make good decisions and the patience and understanding to know when to accept conflicting views. Thank You, Lord.