Scripture speaks to the problem of quarreling rather decisively; as in “Starting a quarrel is like breaching (breaking) a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Proverbs 17:14 And, “He who loves a quarrel loves sin.” Proverbs 17:19 Which raises the question: Can a disagreement ever be legitimate? To which Paul advises, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” Colossians 3:13
But what if someone is saying or doing something stupid – really wrong – even sinful, and I disagree with it? Do I have a right, or an obligation to say so? Again, Paul advises, “...the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses...” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 The difference lies in the nature of your difference of opinion – a quarrel tends to be mean-spirited on both sides – a disagreement can be just that. You may really, whole-heartedly disagree and have a legitimate difference of opinion; but stated with understanding respect, without arrogance in your position. You can stand strong in the truth without intentionally stepping on others toes!
Will this ever result in a “separation”? Possibly. Will we always be able to resolve differences the way we want or to the satisfaction of everyone? Probably not. Can that ever work for good? Sometimes. First of all, we must remember Paul’s advice on harmonious living. “Live in harmony with one another… Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:16-18 But are there some people you just can’t – won’t get along with, either because of a naturally occurring personality conflict or a different maturity level? Absolutely! I wish that weren’t the case, but in all honesty, it is. What do you do then, how should we respond? Go your own way – in peace, doing what you can to get along – and let it go. Remembering Romans 8:28, “...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If we allow God the opportunity and pull our own will and feelings out of the way, He will find a way, He will make a way to bring good out of bad.
Two beautiful examples of this are found in the characters of John Mark and the Apostle Paul. John Mark, who is believed to have penned the Gospel of Mark, is first noted in scripture in the book of Acts and is mentioned only briefly thereafter. But these notations show a gradual maturing on the part of himself and the Apostle Paul, with whom he is recorded as having an “incident”, toward reconciliation and a strengthened ministry as a result. Acts 13:1-13 relate how Barnabas and Paul were set apart as evangelistic missionaries at Antioch and sent out to minister, with John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) as helper. They had acquainted themselves with Mark as one of those praying at the home of his mother Mary for the release of Peter from prison and later took him with them to Antioch. (Acts 12:12-25) The problem came about after their missionary journey had been completed and a brief rest was coming to an end, again at Antioch. Paul desired to return to the newly established churches, retracing their previous journey to strengthen and encourage the struggling infant congregations there. Barnabas agreed but wanted to take John Mark along again. (Acts 15:37-39)
Paul evidently strongly disagreed. Why? Because either from lack of interest, illness, or youthful energy waning in the face of adversity, hardship, and homesickness; Mark had left the missionary party on the trip before to return home. Barnabas, by nature a forgiving, accommodating personality, was willing to give Mark a second chance; correcting him along the way. Paul, on the other hand, a strong individual who demanded the utmost from himself and all those about him, refused. His trust had been broken; he sensed weakness and would have nothing to do with it! They had such a “sharp disagreement” that they parted company; Barnabas and Mark to Cyprus, Paul taking Silas to Syria. Was that the end of it though? No. After years of time and distance, Mark does mature, as does Paul; Mark with strength of character and understanding of mission; Paul with a more sensitive, understanding demeanor and accepting attitude.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he indicated Mark was with him in prison (as a visitor), helping as he could and learning from the beloved Apostle to the Gentiles. (Colossians 4:10 & Philippians 1:24) In a letter to Timothy, Paul, still or again in prison for preaching the Gospel, possibly close to the end of his life by beheading, laments that, “only Luke is with me.” He then asks Timothy to, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 What a turnaround. What a difference a little time, effort, maturity, and understanding can bring if we allow it.
But who makes the first move? ALWAYS you! You be right, you be willing; regardless of the attitude of the other person. Remember – God works for the good...in all things! The only other question I’ve heard asked about this incident is, ‘Did God orchestrate these circumstances or did they happen naturally?’ I don’t know if that question can be definitively answered, but we can see in this as in the incident recorded in Acts 8:1-4 the hand of God bringing good from bad. As for the latter, the early Christian Community was under intense, widespread persecution. Rather than causing it, God used it, blessed it, magnified it to His glory and mankind’s benefit. People were scared, timid, staying put instead of going to all nations and peoples; preaching, teaching, and baptizing. They were forcefully expelled, chased if you will, from Jerusalem to the rest of the countryside and beyond. So it was with Paul and Barnabas. Instead of one missionary team, God developed two very effective, energetic teams to bless and be a blessing!
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