‘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 brothers to the grace of the Lord.’ Acts 15:39-41
One of the most difficult things I have had to face in the pastoral ministry was the need to discipline a fellow Elder who was also a close friend. There was no doubt in my mind that he had seriously offended fellow believers and had acted in a way that was not acceptable as an Elder. He disagreed with me and our fellow Elders and refused to apologise and make amends. We had to ask him to step down and this made him bitter and angry. I tried to continue to be his friend but it was terribly hard for both of us. Choices between ministry or church health and personal relationships are heart-breaking and, in essence, a contradiction of what we believe is the very heart of church life.
Differences of opinion happen in church life at the best of times but in the intense heat of revival they become more marked and often more severe. Paul was a great man of God and Barnabas, son of encouragement, was his mentor, yet they differed so strongly on a relationship issue that they went their own separate ways. Paul felt that Mark had let him down and Barnabas presumably felt some sort of personal loyalty to John Mark. The disagreement seems to have driven Barnabas right out of apostolic ministry and into some sort of retirement on the island of Cyprus.
In times of revival it is so important that we all work together in harmony and with singleness of mind and heart. Unfortunately though, the very nature of revival raises the temperature both in the church and in our personal lives. Any blatant imperfections of character, particularly pride, are likely to catch flame and flare up into potential interpersonal conflicts. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would weld us together rather than melt us in the fires of revival.
My friend and I eventually reconciled and he came back into church life. Shortly after that he contracted cancer and we were able to minister to him as a church family as he passed through the greatest fire of all. When we parted company for the last time it was with love and a burning desire to see each other again one day. Thank you for your grace Lord Jesus.