BRADY COLUMN: Thoughts on disagreements

Published 9:30 am Friday, February 11, 2022

There’s a biblical story that just might shed light on the animosity, hatred and divisions of our time. When the curtain fell on Acts, chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas are parting company. As you may remember, Paul and Barnabas had been very successful together on their first missionary journey of establishing churches. Consequently, Paul suggests that they make a second missionary journey together to make pastoral visits to the previously established churches. Here’s the conversation.

“Great idea!” said Barnabas, “And we’ll take John Mark with us on the second round of visits.

“No, John Mark won’t be going this time,” stated Paul.

“Oh, yes he will,” reiterated Barnabas.

“Not a chance,” said Paul, “John Mark will not be going.”

The issue here was John Mark’s faithfulness, but we are not going to get into that. We are, however, going to get into the disagreement of Paul and Barnabas and what we can do to handle our own disagreements.

First, we can remember the importance of prayer! Now, nowhere!

I repeat, nowhere in Luke’s account does it say that Paul and Barnabas prayed about their disagreement. What might have happened if these two dynamic church leaders had gotten down on their knees together and prayed for God’s glory?  The late Bishop Emerson Colaw wrote in his book: “Modern science and industry have done a great deal to overcome barriers of time and distance, but many people still face formidable obstacles of race and religion, of interest and education, of ideas and ideals. Unable to communicate and cooperate because of such obstacles, persons often find themselves unwillingly involved in incidents of hatred and bloodshed. How different the situation is when men and women are sincerely praying for one another.”

Second, we can seek to understand the other person’s point of view! There can be no reconciliation if we do not seek to understand the other person’s point of view. And this understanding will always begin with listening.  In being open to another person’s point of views, Chuck Swindoll says that there are three necessary qualities that don’t come easily: honesty, objectivity and humility. And none of that comes naturally. It comes as by-products of the Spirit-filled life.” Honesty, Objectivity, Humility — we need to understand the other person’s point of view.

Third, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Speaking to the 17th World Methodist Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Len Sweet stated, “Build a bridge and get over it!”  It’s amazing how many people have trouble getting over some perceived past injustice or present difference. These folks would rather keep themselves and others miserable than build a bridge and get over it.

Fourth, we can look carefully for a way of compromise! Some people look at compromise as a weak and cowardly thing. They mistakenly think that it has something to do with a lack of backbone.  To be sure, there is a time to hold the line. We should never compromise biblical truth, principles or convictions. But simply to be unbending is another thing altogether. There is a way of compromise-when we seek God’s will and not our own.

Fifth, we can trust that God can use everything, even our disagreements, for his purposes! Even though they disagreed about John Mark, there is no question that Paul and Barnabas were both dedicated servants of God. Barnabas was called “the son of encouragement,” and Paul was the greatest missionary the church has ever known. However, they were not perfect.  As you remember, this story concluded with Barnabas and John Mark sailing to Cyprus while Paul abc Silas headed north to strengthen the churches. Now,notice here that God took a dead-end situation, the separation of Paul and Barnabas, and doubled his witness. Only God can do that.  Truth is, God can transform any dead-end situation into a powerful force for good!