Read Acts 15:36—16:5
36 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.
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectAre all disagreements wrong? What if they break up friendships? Pause to remember such an occasion in your own life.
Today’s passage is all about people and places. Especially people—fallible, fragile and fickle as they can be. The dispute arises over the advisability of taking along John Mark who had been with them previously but had apparently left the party for some undisclosed reason. “Deserted” (38) is a very loaded word, but we actually don’t know the circumstances in any detail. Was Paul right? Or was he being judgmental and harsh? Was Barnabas too soft—or a bit kinder and forgiving? Is it possible that they both have acted correctly?
But Paul was always a team player and soon found two more co-workers—first Silas and then Timothy. This is our first introduction to Timothy, who reappears regularly from now on. Here we find another strange pragmatic decision on Paul’s part. Surely Paul can’t have changed his mind so quickly about circumcision! Timothy’s Gentile father presumably opposed the idea despite the fact that Timothy’s mother was Jewish. Paul seems to have considered it necessary to take this rather drastic step “because of the Jews who lived in that area” (3)—a purely expedient decision.
Are there ongoing differences between you and a fellow believer? Is there a way to compromise? Can you agree to disagree?