When We Disagree: Scripture and reflection for Sunday, July 29

Acts 15:36-41
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

The Backstory
After Paul’s (Saul) conversion to Christianity, Barnabas advocates for him to the disciples who are afraid of Paul because of how he had persecuted their members previously.  After Barnabas’ testimony, the disciples accept Paul as a fellow disciple (Acts 9:26-28).  Sometime later, Barnabas seeks Paul out to invite him on a journey to Antioch where they stay and teach members of the church for a year’s time  (Acts 11:25-26).

(John) Mark (he’s usually referred to as either John or Mark) travelled with Barnabas and Paul on the early legs of their first missionary journey through the island cities of Cyprus (Acts 12:25).  Afterwards, (John) Mark returned to Jerusalem while Barnabas and Paul travelled on (Acts 13:13).  After a year or so, Barnabas and Paul returned to Jerusalem and debate some issues before the council in regards to circumcision and the Gentile churches.  The council makes a decision and commends Barnabas and Paul to travel with news of their decision to the Gentile churches who are much relieved that they are not required to be circumcised. 

Questions
The author of Acts does not indicate why John Mark left, and it is only in the above passage that we realize that wasn’t planned, because Paul felt that he had abandoned them. Barnabas wanted to invite John Mark to rejoin them. The disagreement was so sharp the two split. Paul’s missionary career is followed for the remainder of the book although Barnabas also continues on his own career. 

The Book of Acts deals largely with social and theological disagreements within and outside of the church (including violent confrontations).  With so little information, why do you think the author includes this intrapersonal disagreement? 

Paul and Barnabas shared similar goals, so why couldn’t they resolve disagreement to pursue those together?

Is there a side you want to pick?  If so, whose and why?

What questions spring to your mind regarding this passage or when you hear about a disagreement around two people?

How does this passage reflect or apply to our lives today?

Rev. Tara Bauer
Pastoral Resident

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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