When two young friends hang out for a long time, they start to bicker. I’ve always heard that described as “fighting like brothers”. Well I grew up between two sisters, and now I have a son who is doing the same. We didn’t fight like brothers. Oh no. I think it was so much worse. Claws were involved. Siblings fight. It happens. If your kids don’t fight, you need to write a book on what you did, ’cause that ain’t normal.
However, no matter how severe those fights seemed at the time, they were only on the surface. They never really went deep. We still loved each other, and we would do anything for each other.
When thinking about my Christian family, I often think it was no coincidence that God used the family to describe how Christians should relate to one another. There are probably a hundred different blog posts that can be written about the similarities between an earthly family and our heavenly family. We have a Father. We are heirs.
We are also brothers and sisters. If we spend the time together that God expects us to (Acts 2:43-44), then it’s inevitable that there are going to be times that we don’t see eye to eye. If we have a disagreement about scriptural matters, then there’s really only one answer to the dispute, and that comes from the Word of God (II Peter 1:19). No further discussion is needed. However, when it comes down to matters of opinion, we are bound to have opinions that don’t always align perfectly. How are we to handle disputes like that? What should our attitude be toward a fellow Christian that we don’t see eye-to-eye with?
First, we must understand that not all disagreements stem from sin. Sometimes I just like the color blue, and you like the color red. Sometimes I think the dress is black and blue, while you think it’s white and gold. However, we sometimes have this bad habit as humans of letting our emotions get so wrapped up in those kinds of “discussions” that we allow it to affect our relationships. I’ve seen it happen many times within the Lord’s Church. One person will sit on a different side of the congregation from another. One family will leave a congregation because they can’t stand to sit and look at their brother down the pew. We’ll make this unspoken rule that we’ll worship the same God, but we won’t like each other.
Have you ever read what happened between Paul and Barnabas? In Acts 15:36-40, Paul and Barnabas were about to start on what we know today as the 2nd missionary journey. Barnabas mentions bringing along Mark, but boy did Paul think that was a bad idea. He had no desire to take with them someone who had already bailed on them once. These two men argued so much over whether or not Mark should go that they actually split and just went two different directions to preach. They wouldn’t even travel together anymore.
I can already hear it. Ummm…Jonathan. Didn’t you say we weren’t supposed to sit on opposite sides of the auditorium from each other? You’re not really helping yourself with that example. Hear me out.
So Paul and Barnabas head off to preach, each going to different places. What kind of hard feelings did they harbor toward each other? Did they bad-mouth each other when they got to the next town. Did Paul say, “If this guy named Barnabas shows up, just appease him and hang out for a few minutes, but don’t really go out of your way for him.” Did Barnabas say, “Do you know what Paul said to me when we were back in Antioch?”
At the beginning of I Corinthians 9, Paul is letting the congregation at Corinth know that he has the same rights as a preacher as anyone else. But do you know what he also does? He defends Barnabas at the same time. “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” [I Corinthians 9:5-6] Based on comments made in chapter 16, it’s well agreed that this letter to the Corinthians was written during Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. That means he wrote this AFTER he and Barnabas split ways in Acts 15. He didn’t hold a grudge against Barnabas. In fact, he did quite the opposite. He stood up for him. He defended him. He still saw Barnabas as a loving brother…a partner…a faithful servant of Christ. Nothing, not even a small disagreement, was going to come between that.
As for Mark, go take a look at Colossians 4:10. Paul also defends Mark in this passage. Want to know what else? The letter of Colossians is believed to have been written while Paul was in prison in Rome, meaning it took place after the 3rd missionary journey was over. Paul didn’t even have hard feelings toward Mark, the one that was the source of the dispute to start with.
Remember that we are going to have disagreements with people we are around. It’s just part of being human and having emotions and opinions. However, if we let those disagreements smolder and turn into something much deeper, we have left the confines of what God intended Christians to be…a family…brothers and sisters.