“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
― Acts 15:39 (NIV)
If there is anything that has gotten me down into the serious discouragement of depression it is the sharp sort of disagreement that occurred between Paul and Barnabas. It’s occurred to me more than once.
There is little doubt, personally, most growth can come from the area of disagreement, being misunderstood (and my misunderstanding of another), and the disappointment that leads to discouragement. And the spiral runs downward when bitter shards of contempt have urged me to disobey God’s command in the Lord’s prayer: “… as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12) So merciful is God not to look away from my sin, but to continue to ask me to reconsider. And I do, as He gives me strength. But it can be a battle.
If Paul and Barnabas, great servants of the Lord, disagreed sharply, then we, too, who love the Lord, also, will disagree sharply. Sometimes we won’t respond well. None of us like feeling like we don’t have control. We all like to be listened to and to be understood. Sometimes we have views that we cannot compromise — views we believe God put there. We tend to think we’re right, they’re wrong, they’re obstinate, and we’re the ones who make most sense. That God’s on our side. Couldn’t be on theirs.
If I’m honest, I have to consider that those I’ve had disagreements with will have felt misunderstood, disappointed, and discouraged. Because I was difficult to deal with. That they, too, have wrestled with forgiveness; of me. That they couldn’t reconcile how I thought or felt about an issue or issues. That I’m unreasonable.
I would say I’m ashamed of my actions of reaction at times. Anger has gotten the better of me on a few occasions. I’ve been a fool when there have been times in my earlier life when I would never have done that. It’s easy to think up some excuses, yet there are also times in my earlier life when I would not have done that, either. Yet, God is gracious.
Maybe it’s simply a case that we cannot work together. Disagreements can reveal this. Sometimes, but not most of the time, we can agree to disagree. Halcyon times, those.
I’m trying to learn all I can so I don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made. By the fear only God can put in me, I don’t want to betray a call I received over twelve years ago. How could I do that to the younger version of me who had faith enough to enter ministry with gifts to be shared for the benefit of the Body of Christ? There is this comfort, the fact I’ve made mistakes puts me in excellent biblical company, which is why the Bible is encouragement, not simply instructional, so long as learning is stowed. It’s no good to stay in the wrong.
I pray that, as Paul and Mark (who Barnabas and Paul disagreed over in the first place) reconciled, there would be sweet reconciliations ahead with those who I’ve had sharp disagreements with. God has this in hand.
The Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God is what the work of ministry is all about.