Daily Devotional April 14, 2023

“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, NIV)

     Relationships can be fragile. A cross word was spoken here. A broken promise is made there. A disagreement that gets out of hand. Before you can say, “Hold my earrings,” an argument ensues, and the two parties must be separated to maintain an armistice.

     Such was the case for Barnabas and Paul. The duo at one time formed a united team that extended the reach of the gospel deep into the Roman Empire. Their friendship was forged by the call of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples of Christ.

     However, a dispute arose between the two comrades. A young man known as John Mark had left Paul at a critical time during a previous mission trip. John Mark’s departure didn’t sit with Paul. Barnabas wanted John Mark to accompany the team on their second expedition. Paul refused. A nasty argument broke out and the bond between Paul and Barnabas was broken.

     Paul later would write in his letter to the Romans, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (12:18). Sometimes reconciling an estranged relationship is not possible. Both sides of the issue must come to a mutual understanding that encourages the partnership to continue. Yet if only one of the parties is amenable to resolving their mutual differences the relationship likely will dissolve.

     We live in a broken world. The blessed bond that ties together our hearts as one is not immune to unraveling. However, in such cases when reconciliation is not possible or may prove to be unsafe, breaking up can be accomplished gracefully.

     According to Neil Sedaka, breaking up is hard but it need not be a harmful thing to do. It is possible to separate well. In such instances, I have discovered a formula that has worked for me:

                   Take your leave quietly.
                   Forgive in your heart completely.
                   Allow room for God to act justly.

     Simply put, I refuse to get in the parting shot as I take my leave. I ask God for the grace to forgive, so as not to allow the person who hurt me to live inside my head. And I trust God to dispense any discipline that He determines as necessary.

     One final thought. Though they went their separate ways, God used Paul and Barnabas to spread even further the saving love of Jesus Christ. Though not His first choice, God worked to bring about good in spite of human frailty. I believe He can do the same for you.