No new post again this week as I'm in crunch time prepping for Momentum. But in the meantime, I thought I'd repost one of my most famous blog posts ever, from back in 2012. Understanding this concept has made the biggest difference in my life and I hope it can do the same for you. And I'll still be on Periscope today at 12:30 pm EST for another ASK ME ANYTHING scope.
“Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another.” Acts 15:39
In the book of Acts, chapter 15, we have the story of one of the great disputes in church history. The great apostle Paul got into a disagreement with his fellow worker Barnabas – who just happened to be his mentor as well. The disagreement occurred as the two of them were about to set sail on a pastoral journey to visit the churches which they had already established.
The dispute was over the presence of another apostle on the trip – St. Mark, the writer of the second gospel. At the time, Mark was still young and not quite ready for some of the rigors of the mission field. He was still a work in progress at the time the story takes place.
“Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed.” (Acts 15:37-39)
And that was it ladies and gentlemen. That was the end of Paul and Barnabas. Tradition teaches us that they never ever spoke again after that moment.
WHAT?!?!?! Are you kidding me? How could this happen to two very spiritual people?
Barnabas and Paul were inseparable early on. Barnabas was the one who mentored Paul and gave him a chance to be an apostle. Without Barnabas, there is no Paul. And vice versa as well. Paul was the one who helped Barnabas in the ministry when he was overwhelmed and drowning. Without Paul, Barnabas might not have made it.
So the million dollar question is this….WHO’S RIGHT?
We live a world that likes to assess blame. Something happened – it has to be someone’s fault. It’s either Paul’s fault or Barnabas’ fault. It has to be someone’s fault. Ask this question in a circle of 10 Bible toting believers and you’ll get 10 different answers. Each of us answers this question based on our own biases.
My wife and I often joke about how there are two types of people in the world – people like Paul and people like Barnabas. People like Paul are the swords – they stand for truth and justice and righteousness. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. They value responsibility and reliability. Let your yes be yes and your no, no. I am proud to be a Paul.
People like Barnabas are the pillows – they are all about mercy and kindness and forgiveness. Everyone deserves a second chance. These are the kind of people you hope to find as judge if you ever find yourself on trial. My wife is proud to be a Barnabas.
The world needs both pillows and swords.
Without pillows, the swords would all kill each other and without swords, the pillows would get nothing done. My experience says that God often brings swords and pillows together in marriage especially to complete and complement one another.
The Church too needs both pillows and swords. The swords are the people who advance the cause of Christ and fight passionately to spread the gospel. They are full of determination and zeal and ready to fight for what’s right. The pillows are the nice people who make you smile and feel warm and fuzzy inside. They fight not for the cause, but for people. Both are needed. Both are essential. Both seem diametrically opposed to one another.
In reading this story, the pillows look at it and say “Paul is so mean and so arrogant and so rude. He needs to apologize.” The swords look at it and say “Barnabas is so foolish for wanting to take that irresponsible and unreliable Mark – in doing so Barnabas was risking destroying the mission.”
For discussion: does someone have to be right? What do you think? Leave a comment here and let’s learn from each other.