When was the last time you experienced conflict? In today’s world, it doesn’t take long before we are confronted with tension. Turn on the television and listen to some news headlines. Politicians throw punches with words. Countries send messages with tanks and fighter jets. People enact revenge for the dumbest of reasons. Conflict even occurs in our relationships with those around us. A little argument can threaten to destroy friendships or even families. Conflict is everywhere and it’s out of control. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas have one of these times of tension in their relationship.
In it’s infancy, the church had people for all sorts of backgrounds. There were some Pharisees (group of people who studied the Jewish religious law) who joined the church. This group thought that in order to be saved, you had to first follow the Jewish religious law before following Jesus. They were teaching that you had to “be circumcised” in order to be saved. Because of this false teaching, the council met in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas were there in order to inform the council of what great things were done through the Gentiles (these people didn’t attempt to follow the Jewish religious law). Upon leaving, Paul & Barnabas decided to head back out on another missionary journey, but they were in disagreement whether to take Mark along with them.
Let’s take a look at a few things we can learn from this conflict between these two spiritual giants…
Conflict should stay on a personal level.
After the council meeting, Paul and Barnabas decided to head out again to visit the churches that they had started. Barnabas was ready, but he wanted to take Mark along. Paul disagreed. It’s little conflicts like these that comes along in our everyday lives. Maybe you want to get the family together for Thanksgiving, but decide to try a new turkey recipe this year. Or you get some friends together to watch the game and you forget to invite a certain someone. Word spreads. Pretty soon your great aunt is on the phone with your cousin, trying to persuade them of how evil of a person you are. When conflict arises, take Paul & Barnabas’s advice. It should just stay between the parties involved. Paul didn’t go around and hang posters convincing the world of his decision not to include Mark. Barnabas didn’t write epistles about how evil Paul was for leaving out Mark. They just kept it to themselves. We need to do the same.
Conflict shouldn’t be taken personally.
Relationships without conflict aren’t relationships at all. God’s creation was good, until Adam & Eve did the one thing they were told not to. We rebelled against God and we now have to pay the price. Because we live in a fallen world, conflict with always exist. There will always be disagreements, fights, and even the silent treatment. You’ll never get along perfectly with anyone. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “If only people were just like me! This world would be a better place.” The truth is it wouldn’t. It would be just as screwed up, just as sinful, just as conflict-ridden as always. We’re all that way. Because of the flesh, we’ll always have the tendency to want to look better in an argument. We want to be right and we want them to be wrong. When conflict does occur, we need to remember what’s more important. Why did God create Adam & Eve? Why do we exist? For relationship! Don’t let a simple disagreement destroy a friendship. Approach conflict like Paul & Barnabas. Don’t take it personally.
Conflict should be handled in a way that gives glory to Jesus.
Paul & Barnabas were in the midst of a disagreement. After some quick discussion, it was done. They parted ways. Paul went ahead with Silas, and Barnabas left with Mark. It’s easy to think that this disagreement was a bad thing. But a simple disagreement itself isn’t bad. It’s how we respond to the disagreement that could potentially be bad. Paul & Barnabas kept this disagreement between the two parties involved. They didn’t go out and attempt to convince others of their cause. They kept it between themselves and they didn’t take it personally. Paul & Barnabas knew what was most important: their relationship. Because they handled this conflict in a Godly way, Jesus was glorified. As a result of these two parting ways, new churches were started, others were involved in ministry, and the book of Mark was written! A simple conflict, and many more people came to know Jesus because of it.
Every relationship is bound to have conflict. We’ll argue about anything just so we can win. But we need to remember what’s most important. The next time conflict comes along in one of your relationships, respond like Paul & Barnabas. Keep it between the parties involved, don’t take it personally, and always handle it in a way that gives glory to Jesus! How are you handling conflict? Are you glorifying yourself or Jesus?
(Photo by Flickr User: Keoni Cabral)