Psalm 102:12-28; 2 Kings 8:1-6; Acts 15:36-41
What do you do when conflict arises? This little passage in Acts 15 is always fascinating to me because it gives us a snapshot of the less than perfect leaders in the early church. It turns out that they were as human and normal as we are. They had disagreements and tempers and personalities. (Side note, I'm thankful that the Bible preserves the imperfections because it helps us know and understand these people were just like us.)
Paul and Barnabas disagreed on taking young Mark along on the journey. So, they parted ways. Their disagreement on this man lead them to breaking off their partnership. This doesn't sound like the kind of thing that the writer of two thirds of the New Testament should do, does it? This was a guy who had visions of the risen Christ. He was a guy who would go on to write, possibly, the greatest passage on love in human history. Yet, here he is unable to continue in relationship with someone who was his mentor and friend over a disagreement.
There's no moral judgment in the passage about the argument. There's just a statement of the facts of the matter.
I think one of the things that comes out of this brief story is that it's OK to agree to disagree. Some times we come to a place where we simply have to say, “We aren't going to see eye to eye and for the greater good we ought to part ways.”
It also brings to mind a conversation that I've a number of times about the nature of forgiveness. I think that when we talk about forgiveness we need to distinguish between forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Forgiveness is a one way street. It's what the offended person does so as to not develop bitterness in their own soul. Reconciliation is a two way street when the two people can be present with one another. This is a two way street where the offender acknowledges their hurtful action and the offended is willing to remain in relationship. Restoration is when the hurt has been moved past and the relationship has been returned to a previous or deeper state.
I imagine that Paul and Barnabas forgave one another. Perhaps in their separating there was even reconciliation in that they were not estranged from one another. We see later in the book of Acts a restoration when Mark joins Paul on the journey.
When we enter into conflict the minimum outcome we hope for is forgiveness from our own point of view. When it comes to reconciliation and restoration, that is something that requires two people to move towards one another. We don't really control the reconciliation and restoration aspect. And sometimes, those are not healthy outcomes (particularly in cases of abuse, restoration is not something that we need to pursue).
This morning I am processing whom I may need to forgive or whom I need to ask forgiveness of.
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