What divided Paul and Barnabas?

Is all conflict a symptom of dysfunction?

For the past 20 years or so, I’ve often wondered what was really going on in the break up of Paul and Barnabas.  We usually try to figure out who was right and who was wrong.  Here’s the incident from Acts 15:36-41:

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 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. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Paul was “commended” by the leaders at Antioch as he left on his missionary tour.  Does this mean that Paul “won” the argument?  Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cypress.  We don’t hear from him again in Acts…or the Bible…except for Paul’s reference to his compromise in the matter with Peter at Antioch (see Galatians 2:13).

These two men of God had been through a lot together.  They had been ministry partners for at least 4 years.  Barnabas had “found” Paul and helped “open a door” of ministry to him at Antioch.  He also helped Paul meet the Apostles in Jerusalem.  They had travelled together evangelizing Asia minor in the “first” missionary journey.  They went through terrible persecution together.  They saw amazing miracles of God together.  They saw God bring solve the divisive issue of Jew and Gentile relations at the Council at Jerusalem.

Then they had such a “sharp disagreement” that they parted ways.

Apparently they never worked together again.  At the initial glance it seems pretty sad.  I think there is much to learn from this account.  Over the next couple of days I will share some principles relating to conflict that just might help us navigate times of confict in our own lives.  Stay tuned.

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