"A Sharp Disagreement"
Paul and Barnabas will break up their teamwork. Paul would say to the church in Corinth, "Let there be no divisions among you." How do we deal with a sharp disagreement between Christians? At what point does one of them simply walk away?
A Sharp Disagreement
A. Read James 4:1-12. What causes quarrels among Christians within a local congregation? James says that part of the reason is that “our passions are at war within us.” It’s about what I want, when I want it, how I want and if I don’t get it, believe me, You will get!
B. But God has an answer. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God has an answer. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. God has an answer. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. You want to know how that gets done? James says, “do not speak evil against one another.”
C. God says through Paul in Rom 16 to “watch out for those who cause divisions.” Now listen to 1 Cor. 1:10-13. Here was a church that was divided in their preacher loyalty. But Paul asked the question, “Is Christ divided?” The obvious answer to “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” is no!
D. As we come to our text we see Paul and Barnabas in a heated dispute; a disagreement so sharp that it caused them to separate the ministry which had brought them together. Do Christian people ever disagree sharply? Is the disagreement bad or being disagreeable what is so bad? To some extent difference cause us to think, dig into God’s word, and grow. But being disagreeable simply make personal attacks, sarcastic or condescending remarks, and have no place in the betterment of the body or the relationship.
E. Acts 15 starts with a disagreement over the need for circumcision in order to be saved. We have no problem understanding the need to stand firm and not simply say, “it doesn’t make a difference, let’s just circumcise everyone and make the Jews happy.” No! We stand up and say that God has not placed that condition as a salvation matter. Paul and Barnabas had a sharp dispute with these men and it took the apostles to step in bring a resolution to the matter. We Paul and Barnabas wrong for not letting the will of the circumcised be the prevailing teaching on salvation? No! But as we come to the end of the chapter, it is not a matter of principle that is the problem, but an opinion over John Mark.
I. I Have A Dream
A. Some of you will recognize these words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
B. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for our country to move beyond the racial divide that comes by the color of a person’s skin. His dream was for unity in diversity. But God has a dream also, well, maybe a desire for mankind would be a better phrase. God’s dream is that we learn to love each other as he loves us, that we learn to forgive each other as he forgives us, that we be one in spirit. Differences will come, but how we deal with them determines if we can still be brothers even if we go separate ways.
C. Many times when a preacher leaves a congregation there is some disagreement that he has with someone. There are a good number of occasions when a family leaves a congregation but lives in the same house it is because they just disagree with the congregation they had been attending. What people debate in this passage is did Paul, or Barnabas, or both sin in parting ways? The Bible does not give us a definitive answer, but it does help us to see the rest of the story. A story about ministry and reconciliation. While we don’t have the emotions of these two men after parting company, we can see some of what happened.
D. Before I deal with the rest of story, I believe that another situation can help us to see the need to reconcile quickly. It is found in Phil 4:2-3. Think about this, Paul begs these two women who have labored in the gospel, whose names are written in the book of life, to agree in the Lord. He is not saying one is wrong. He does hint of some false teaching. But the goal that Paul has is for these two women to come back together.
II. How To Disagree
A. The question is not “will there be disagreements” but “how am I to disagree?” Both Paul and Barnabas believed they were right. They took a position in which they would not back down. They keep pushing and it appears the emotions grow. Warren Wiersbe said, “Paul looked at people to see what they could do for God’s work and Barnabas looked at people to see what God’s work could do for them.” That may be very accurate.
B. Think for a moment, can two people have different philosophies on how to implement God’s work and both be right? Is there always only one right way to do something in the kingdom? We understand that if you want to see a ministry done one way and I want to see that ministry done another way that it could very well be that neither of us is wrong, we just take a different approach. Both Paul and Barnabas agreed that those Christians and churches that were recently started on that missionary journey needed to be encouraged. They agreed that gospel message needed to continue to spread in the Greco/Roman world. That was not the issue.
C. So what do I do when I adamantly disagree with a vision or work within this congregation? Listen to Eph. 4:1-3.
1. Be humble and gentle. I need to start with this spirit. Humility calls for me to be honest with myself in a disagreement. I have been wrong before, and I may be wrong now. I ought to look at what you have to say in light of God’s greater work. In gentleness cause me to respond with kindness in my heart toward you, not a feeling of “that’s just way you are, you scum.”
2. Patience and bearing with one another in love. Too often we don’t have patience or a forbearing spirit when we are in a disagreement. If I bear with you, even if I believe you are wrong on a disputable matter, I can learn your heart instead of your actions.
3. Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. That is my end. Eager is a something that I have become. I want to make the relationship work. I want to see the ministry take place. I want to the world to see the unity of love in diversity.
A From June 29 to July 6, 1913, the Union and Confederate flags flew side by side when more than 50,000 Civil War veterans convened in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal battles in American history. Men who had once fought to kill, now slept in the great tent area, ate together, told stories, and shared a common love for this country.
B. God is about reconciliation. Paul would call John Mar “a fellow laborer” and in his last letter to Timothy he asked for him to bring John Mark for he was “useful to me for ministry.” The great team of Paul and Barnabas has no biblical account of working on a similar mission again. They parted ways, but not stopping the ministry of God. Paul would speak of Barnabas in a favorable light in 1 Corinthians and Galatians.
C. The reason for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is so that we can be reconciled back to God. God is about reconciliation. God made a way to make us righteous when we weren’t. God extended his hand to us, will you shake it?