HANDLING SHARP DISPUTES AND DISAGREEMENTS
“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1—2)
“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.” 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 believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:36—40)
At the beginning of this chapter, I find Paul and Barnabas got into a SHARP DISPUTE AND DEBATE with the proponents of circumcision according to the custom taught by Moses by the church. The dispute was so sharp that Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about the question debated. This disagreement was about doctrinal issues.
At the end of the chapter, I find Paul and Barnabas themselves got into a SHARP DISAGREEMENT about Barnabas’ desire to bring along Mark, his nephew, to Paul’s rejection of such an idea. The reason Paul gave was that Mark DESERTED them when they needed him. What happened to Paul and Barnabas is still a problem today in the church. The two issues are doctrinal and relationship. These two have often split churches and caused much pain in the body of Christ.
How do we handle sharp disagreements? So many times, we disagree on trivial matters that we allow to fester and affect our relationships. Handling sharp disagreements must be done in a way that honors God and honors those whom we disagree with. We all have reasons to believe we are right about every situation until we hear the other person’s reason. I know for a fact that even my wife and I have sharp disagreements from time to time. More often, I think I am always right in my own estimation. But there are times when my wife was absolutely right, but my pride didn’t want to acknowledge that her ideas and suggestions were the best.
Disagreement in the two matters mentioned above may differ from how we would’ve handled it, but it is worth noticing how Paul and Barnabas tried to handle the issues. Disagreement with people who came down from Judea and Antioch was dealt with by taking the issue back to where the Apostles were, in Judea, for clarification. That is one way at least they tried to resolve the doctrinal issue.
Disagreement regarding Barnabas’ desire to bring Mark along ended in a split. It seems very childish to be splitting up over objections about whether someone should be a part of the team or not. However, the outcome may not have been the best, but at least they resolved it by walking away. It may not have been the best outcome, but for the moment, it provides them an opportunity to move on and do the things God wants. Let us know how to handle our SHARP DISPUTE AND DISAGREEMENT. Let us trust God to bring clarity; we must be humble enough to listen to one another. Relationships will always have disputes and disagreements, but we must settle them in a God-honoring way.
I learn that I am not always right. I must continue to take into consideration the reasons and thoughts of others. I must also not be afraid to do what is right even if it ends in a way not expected. I want to be able to strive for solutions in every matter and challenge in such a way that honors Jesus.
Father, teach me to look to you in moments of intense and sharp dispute or disagreement with my brothers and sisters in your body. Please help me not to resort to selfish reasoning but seek out what is best in all situations that honor you. Holy Spirit, lead me and guide me. I was hoping you could speak to me and through me when I am unable to communicate as I should. I look to you, Jesus. Amen!