I wrote about the importance of forbearance in a recent post, and someone responded saying, "Sometimes forbearance does not work. It’s not as easy as it sounds."
Hey, I couldn’t agree more. The guy pointed out in the book of Acts that Paul and Barnabas divided company over John Mark, Barnabas’ relative. It’s true. They got in a big fight over giving John Mark a second chance.
Here’s what happened. During the first missionary journey the team was comprised of Paul, Barnabas and John Mark. Some time rather early in the endeavor John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem.
In due time, Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem and gave the report of all that God had done on their journey. Paul ultimately wanted to return and visit the churches they helped start. Barnabas was on board with a second trip but wanted to take John Mark, who apparently wanted another chance.
But Paul said, "Absolutely not. He deserted us." (my words, not Paul’s!) Acts 15 actually says, "Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work…"
Here’s what happened next. "Their [Paul and Barnabas] disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord’s grace." Acts 15: 38-40
This is reality, friends. Sometimes vision and forbearance collide, and you have to make a decision. Paul himself wrote to the Romans, "As far as it depends on you, leave at peace with all people." I’m sure he met what he wrote. Still, there are times when you just can’t work together.
When I read this text, I sometimes side with Barnabas in this conflict and other times I’m on Paul’s side. Luke, who wrote Acts, does not give us all the details, so I can’t really make an informed decision.
"Lord, when forbearance seems impossible and visions conflict, give me the Lord’s grace just as it was given to Paul and Silas and Barnabas and John Mark, even as they ultimately separated and went different ways."