Barnabas and Paul – let's agree to disagree

Xanthe Galanis

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.  Acts 15: 36-39

This is what many people remember most about Paul and Barnabas – the argument that ended the friendship between two great men of Christ. How could this happen?!

There’s an unspoken and damaging expectation that Christians never get angry or fight. Paul and Barnabas remind us that conflict is inevitable among even the best of people. It only gets ugly when people handle it poorly. Could it be that when we get stirred up, we forget to ask God for help?

A little further along we read that Barnabas and Paul each went their separate way but, most importantly, "commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord." (v. 40)

It is apparent that there was discussion and prayer among the believers. This is how our differences need to be worked out - in love and prayer and with the support and prayer of the community of believers, not in secret or by ignoring the situation. The important thing is to keep focused on doing the will of Christ. That is what Paul and Barnabas both did. As a result, perhaps even more work was accomplished for the Lord because of the manner in which their disagreement was handled. In any friendship disagreements will happen, it's inevitable, and Christians aren't exempt from this. What matters is how we handle them.

Prayer: Even when I don't always agree with my friends, help me to continue to respect them and their decisions. Help me to put you at the centre of all my friendships. Amen.