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Sharp Contention

by on December 19, 2013

The contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. Acts 15:36-40

Sharp contention – what to do? Can peace be made? Must peace be made? The Bible speaks much of peace. It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is the nature of the Kingdom of God. But, what if there is sharp contention? What to do?

What if peace has to be made before we can proceed? What if reconciliation is the imperative? What about the contention between Paul and Barnabas?

What if the Church would have said, “Paul and Barnabas, until you make peace between yourselves we will not bless you to go on the missionary journey.” That is not what happened. The contention was so sharp that they parted ways. If peace between them would have been demanded, the time and energy invested would have prevented the work of God from going forth.

When contentions are sharp, this passage sets a precedent of parting ways and both persons going into ministry and missions. Paul and Silas departed being ‘recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.’

When churches demand personal reconciliation before ministry/mission, they may be hindering the work of God. It would have been true in this case.

Certainly, there should be peace between brethren and sisters but that was not the primary issue in this case. The doctrinal issues were settled earlier in this same chapter. The issue was personality and gifting/fitness for the task at hand.

Always demanding peace between persons will eventually boil down to the lowest common denominator. That will weaken, even the strongest of groups. That will make the strongest persons susceptible to the expectations of the weakest persons. It will also allow politicians to control the actions of the Spiritual gifts in the Church. If a powerful prophet does not like a quiet, mercy person, the mercy person may never exercise his/her gift.

There is a battle to fight. If Paul cannot work with Mark then send Paul with someone with whom he can work. Send Mark with someone with whom he can work. But work and fight the battle. That is what the Church did. The gospel prospered. The energy needed was put into the fight. That same energy could have been burned up in endless attempts to get everyone on the same page on this issue.

The Church did not shackle Paul by forcing him to appease Barnabas. The Church did not offend Barnabas by forcing him to work with Paul. The Church did not argue that Paul owed his acceptance in the Church to Barnabas.

Who can work with who did not prevent the gospel from going to the world via Paul and Silas. And there was eventual reconciliation between these differing persons.

Reconciliation is a Biblical issue and should not be ignored but, this case indicates that reconciliation between differing persons with whom the contention is very sharp is not always immediately possible. When that is the case, the work should not be prevented by absorbing untold amounts of energy that should be invested in the work and the battle for the truth and the Kingdom of God.

Internal wrangling is destroying the church. Doctrinal matters must be spelled out. Personality matters will not all be resolved. We are to consider one another to provoke one another to love and good works. Strong words. Important words. The Church leaders blessed the work of God then. We need to do the same today.

In a day of ego pampering, everyone has to be individually recognized. That is not all bad but, it misses the fact that we are each members of a body that has a task in this world. It is not about me. It is about the task. Let us be about that task.

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