Agree To Disagree - Acts 15:36-41 NIV
Continue our Acts study - Sequel & Requel. Our 38th today. Today's topic is an important one to how we live our daily lives. Maybe you're like me. I used to think that if I was a Christian, then I had to be unified with all other Christians, which meant that I always had to love them, which meant that I always had to be unified with them, which meant that I always had to agree with them. No arguments. No divisions.
Then I got married.
You learn very quickly that it is possible to love someone deeply and yet disagree with them completely. That's why marriage is a union of two different people. If we agreed upon everything, what's the use of the 2nd person? Today we discover our Christian lives are the same.
#1 - Living as a Christian doesn't means we will always ________.
"[Paul and Barnabas] had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company." Acts 15:39a NIV
I'm so glad we have this passage. Both Paul and Barnabas were important leaders and models of the new Christian faith and yet they clearly disagreed. And no small disagreement either. "SHARP" disagreement that resulted in their parting ways. What? Can this happen within the church? Can Christians disagree in such a big way that they go their own separate ways? In a word, yes! That's today's lesson!
So how can I tell the difference between disagreements in which I am still following the Christian faith and those that produce sinful results?
#2 - Ask myself: is my disagreement more __________ than ___________?
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12 NIV
Our nation today is filled with political leaders who disagree sharply. What is so sobering about today's news headlines is also just how personal these disagreements become. It's not just about the issues. But it is also about the people. We jump from the issue to the person. We demonize the person. We don't give them the benefit of the doubt that they have come to a different conclusion, yet with the same love of country we have. Not only is the person WRONG, but also EVIL.
This is not an option for Christ-followers. Why? Because of the love commandment. Love does not mean we will always agree. But it does mean we always give the benefit of the doubt. Any parent who knows their child has done something wrong understands this.
So the first question we have to ask ourselves when we disagree with someone else is this - is my disagreement more personal than reasonable? We can dislike some people so much that we would disagree with just about anything they say. Consider Paul & Barnabas:
A. Barnabas' Reasoning: ___________________.
"Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them." Acts 15:37 NIV
Yes, Mark let us down - but that was not his character. He was scared. I know how he felt. He'll do better the next time. It's important that we give him a next time. Everyone deserves a second chance. By the way, do you remember when you were Saul? I gave you the benefit of the doubt when no one else did. Mark deserves that same opportunity.
B. Paul's Reasoning: ________________.
"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." Acts 15:38 NIV
Paul is pragmatic. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. I know the character of a man by what he does when the pressure is on. When the pressure was on, Mark deserted us. This work is too important to trust to someone who is unreliable.
When we decide to partner with someone else in ministry, we go by the 3 Cs - Character, Competence, and Chemistry. Character is right at the top of the list and as far as Paul was concerned, Mark didn't have it.
There was no middle ground here. Either Mark went on the trip or he didn't. Neither Paul nor Barnabas would change their mind. Their disagreement was "sharp." So sharp they parted ways. This is the last time we hear about Barnabas in the Book of Acts. Our question today is how do handle this if and when this happens to us?
#3 - Two important ways to handle agreeing to disagree:
A. Keeping God's work ____________________.
"Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." Acts 15:39b-41 NIV
The first thing we see here is that neither Paul nor Barnabas just quit. We do that sometimes, right? If you're not going to agree with me, then I'm just going to leave and not do this anymore. No! Both of their commitments to Christ and to His mission was paramount in their priorities. They each continued their ministry without the other.
In one way, this is so sad because they were a great partnership! God had been able to use them so powerfully together. And yet God was also able to use them even more powerfully apart! Paul and Silas went on to become even greater partners (as we shall see). And God had some great things in mind for Barnabas and Mark too - can anyone say, "The Gospel of Mark?" Because of the encouragement of Barnabas, Mark went on to be a great Christian leader too AND a lieutenant to Peter!
This is something almost every minister of the gospel must learn. We pray: "God use me when and where you can and help me to be flexible to be available to help move the gospel forward." Throughout my life this has changed so many times! We have the tendency to only be able to see our present circumstances and ministry as THE way God can use us. Not so! God always has bigger plans for us than we can imagine.
B. Keeping godly reputation _________________.
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31 NIV
2nd important lesson of agreeing to disagree is that we must also allow the Holy Spirit to continue to move us towards becoming more like Christ. A dozen years later (62 ad compared to 50 ad), Paul wrote these words to the church at Ephesus. Can't help but wonder if he thought about Barnabas?
Each of these is an important check on our attitude when we "agree to disagree." Bitterness? Wrath? Anger? Clamor? Slander? Malice? All marks of "it's personal!" Must PUT AWAY? How? By replacement! Kindness. Tenderheartedness. Forgiveness. In other words we have to work at it - ESPECIALLY when we agree to disagree.