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Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 5, 2016 – Acts 15:36-41

An Argument of Apostolic Proportions

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Acts 15:36

Intro: This chapter began with great dissension and debate

Now it ends with sharp disagreement and separation
– I believe the first instance was justified, even necessary
• I am not convinced that this other instance was called for
– we’re not given specific details of their debate
• and no one quotes scripture to support his contention
◦ so it would seem they were divided over a matter of principle
• but I’m getting ahead of myself

V. 36, The scene opens with a congenial proposal

Paul’s suggestion made good sense
– he was saying, in effect, “Let’s continue what proved a successful partnership”
• they have already told many people about their successful adventures
– the people in those cities who had come to faith may have been in need of spiritual guidance
• so the purpose of this journey was to see how they are
◦ the Greek word translated “visit” is the rook of Episcopal – a bishop or supervisor (cf. Php. 1:1)
• no doubt Paul envisioned opportunities for further ministry

Vv. 37-38, Something triggered a falling out

Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphlia and had not gone with them to the work.

Their conflict was not over theology, methodology or travel plans
– but Mark, who quit on them but had now reenlisted
• so now we see why Luke has continued to insert footnotes about Mark
• he was at the heart of this conflict

Luke does not explore what it was that upset Paul
– maybe he merely considered Mark unreliable
• or could have been hurt by desertion, betrayed
◦ Paul experienced a lot of that

I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, . . . dangers among false brothers (2 Cor. 11:26)

– all of us have our sensitivities
• internal wounds that have been festering for years
• the lightest touch triggers pain, shame, defensiveness, etc.
◦ and often times we respond with an automatic overreaction

As a rule, I’m against psychological analyses of biblical characters
– we’re too far away from their circumstances
• and know too little about their inner experience
• of course, some characters describe their mental state; Job, Jeremiah, the Psalms
– but I think there’s good reason to interpret Paul’s position as overreaction
• my primary reason is because it was Barnabas that gave him a second chance
◦ Barnabas championed Paul when he reconciled him to the church in Jerusalem

. . . they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27)

◦ I think of Barnabas as the patron saint of second chances
• Paul had benefited from Barnabas’ mercy and his willing to risk a second chance
◦ yet, in this case at this time, Paul was unable to match his generosity

Vv. 39-41, Unreconciled, two separate journeys commence

And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

“Sharp disagreement” translates the Greek word paraxusmos
– in English, paroxysm is “a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity”
• Paul and Barnabas could no longer minister together
• Barnabas headed out on same route as before, which made sense (his hometown was in Cyprus)
◦ but that is as far as we travel with him and Mark
– Paul enlisted Silas and they headed north by land
• this would eventually take him to (or near) his hometown, Tarsus
◦ we’ll catch up to them next week as they continue their journey

Notice that Luke reports this entire incident without moral judgment
– neither one is praised for being in the right or condemned for doing wrong
• nevertheless, he includes this instance of un-Christlike behavior in his story
• so we are reminded, although they were men of God, they were still men

A trait of human relationships is that they can be fractured

But another trait is that they can be restored
– we don’t learn about Paul and Barnabas’ restoration in the Book of Acts
• but we do find evidence of it in his letters
• and Paul came to appreciate and endorse Mark as well

Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service (2 Tim. 4:11)
Mark and several others were Paul’s only allies from the circumcision group that he considered partners and who, as Paul said, proved to be an encouragement to me (Col. 4:10-11)

– reconciliation and relationship is God’s definition of salvation

God…reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:19-21)

• to reconcile is to carry forward the work of Jesus
• it is liberation, healing, renewal and restoration

Unfortunately, some of us are not well-equipped to reconcile

Bessel van der Kolk, “Early attachment patterns create the inner maps that chart our relationships throughout life, not only in terms of what we expect from others, but also in terms of how much comfort and pleasure we can experience in their presence.” (The Body Keeps the Score)

Daniel Siegel, begins lists shame as an impediment to repairing ruptures in relationships and adds that “sometimes stubbornness, pride, ignorance, or just plain selfishness may make an individual contribute to a rupture but not be able to acknowledge his or her role in the disconnection.” (Interpersonal Neurobiology)

– we may feel resistance to, or fear of admitting our role
• that is because taking the first step may threaten a vulnerable ego
◦ as if to say “You are right” means “I am a bad person”
◦ or I’m irrelevant, or stupid or disappear into insignificance
• our fighting is not always for the truth
◦ many times it is our desperate struggle to be known and accepted
– Siegel stresses, inner integration (reconciliation) depends on attunement
• the experience of hearing and feeling another and having our voice heard and our feelings felt by another person
• he insists that repairing ruptures in relationship is critical to that ongoing experience
“. . . it may not be our fault but it is our responsibility to follow a rupture with repair.”

Conc: In the Scriptures, wholeness is not achieved in isolation

It is nurtured in the wholeness of a healthy community

So here is my opinion (and I’m told I have a right to it):

First, if you refuse to reconcile with someone in your Christian community,
• you forfeit your right to talk about that person
◦ or hang on to your resentment toward him or her
• if you are detached from that person relationally,
◦ what’s point of remaining attached emotionally?
• why is it that I can criticize my parents, but will not tolerate anyone else criticizing them?
◦ because they stand outside the relationship
◦ others do not have the insider’s rights or experience

Secondly, if we want to reconcile, there’s good news
• the Spirit of God will join us in working to make it happen
◦ and do not worry, God allows time for his work to take effect in us
• a place to begin is in contemplative prayer
◦ this is always our “safe place” with God, our sanctuary
◦ it is where we calm ourselves, renewing our trust in God

As Daniel Siegel observed, “The great news is that the inner sanctuary from which repair can be initiated is always available to be nurtured and can bring important reconnections in our relationships.”

May the Lord bless us,
keep away all evil
and lead us into eternal life.
In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

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