Acts 15:39-41, And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Even the best people can have a disagreement over how to achieve the best goals. Sometimes those disagreements can be strong. They might change a relationship permanently. But differing convictions don’t have to culminate in some catastrophic relationship damage. Here are four steps to handling disagreements between believers:
1) Identify the real source of the argument. Job 16:1-3 asks a very potent question, Then Job answered, “I have heard many such things; Sorry comforters are you all. Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer? Pray for wisdom to discern the root of the problem. Sometimes we allow some abstract issue to become our reason for disagreement when truthfully we have a pain that is based in another issue all together. It might be selfishness or unwillingness to change or pride. Part of getting a real solution spiritually is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the possibility of our own weakness or faults. When we pray, we can allow God to shed light on selfish and worldly motives.
2) Always bring God into the matter. James 4:7, Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The only way to win spiritually, that is to give everything to God, is take everything from Satan spiritually. Ephesians 4:26-27, BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Satan waits, and baits us toward anger, arguments and disagreements. When we ask God to take away, through repentance and submission to Him, the sinful aspects that separate us, we often find solution to the problems we face. Maybe the problem can be downsized to something that is workable instead of remaining this “Everest” we can’t seem to climb.
3) Resist sinning as a result of anger. While anger itself is not a sin, it can become the rationale for sinful behavior. It is an emotion with tremendous potential to take us into spiritual places God’s people just don’t belong. We always need God’s help to direct our hearts toward proper judgment and understanding so that our feelings don’t turn into wrong actions.
4) Pray for and with the other person. Prayer changes situations and people. Philippians 4:6, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. How many churches would have been saved if divided leaders had submitted themselves to God before their own personal desires? While we will have disagreements in the Church, the truth is that they don’t have to end in the dissolution of relationships between Godly people.
I can’t say what exactly happened to the personal relationship between Paul and Barnabas. I do know even the Godliest people can have honest disagreements. In reality they both continued in the work, so they didn’t forsake their mission. Mark was eventually restored to Paul’s trust as we see in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” Mark having matured under the guidance of his uncle, Barnabas, was in the end, a fitting team mate for Paul. Others had to grow into valuable service, Onesimus comes to mind. The truth is we have all needed to grow into the people God has designed us to be. The truth is we all still need to be growing into that role, even today.