By Larry Ray Hafley
Read the brief account of the work of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-15:35). The text does not tell us of Paul and Barnabas’ personal feelings toward one another, but they must have been deep, loving, respectful, appreciative, tender, firm, and strong. Two men could not stand, fight, and work so intimately and closely without developing a powerful, personal bond of brotherhood. It is touching to think about.
Suddenly, however, we read of their disagreement and division. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul “thought (it) not good to take him with them . . . and the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed one from the other” (Acts 15:36-40). Paul chose Silas, and Barnabas took Mark, and their work prospered. Later evidence shows they were reconciled to one another. They did not allow bitterness and silent separation to follow them to their graves.
But in the interval, immediately after the split, I have wondered if Paul and Barnabas did not regret their estrangement. Did they lie awake at night and quietly weep and pray for one another? Did each hope that the other felt the same twinges of concern and affection that he felt? Did they often long for one another’s presence, support, advice, and counsel? While believing their judgment was correct concerning Mark, did they ever regret their strong feelings and pointed words toward one another? Did they ever wish the whole episode had not occurred, or that they had muzzled and squelched their opinion of Mark and gone along in order to avoid the rupture of their work together? Did they promise themselves that they would be extra careful to confirm their love to one another when next they met? Did they hope that it was all somehow for the best? Did each promise himself to be the first to seek the restoration of their cooperation? Oh, consider the depths of hope, fear, love, anguish, and prayer that must have flooded their broken hearts! Surely, they felt and shared similar sorrows and emotions.
If you are Paul, who is your Barnabas? If you are Barnabas, who is your Paul? If you have been in the kingdom for a number of years and have earnestly contended for the faith, you probably have “a Barnabas,” someone you are at odds with, but you wish you were not. You remember with gentle fondness the sweet times and sad trials you bore together. You recall the family activities, the picnics, the singings, the hugging, the tears, the closeness, the bonds of fellowship, and ties of love that were once dearer than those among some of your own family. Then came “the split,” the hard looks, the harsh words, the misunderstandings, the unexplained changes in behavior, the cold stares, the sullen avoidance, the hurt, the pain, the tears, the sorrow and regret. Yes, you have felt it all and more, and you wish to recall those former days. “It could never be the same again.” Perhaps not, but, it need not remain the way it is.
Maybe your “Barnabas” feels the very same way and would react positively to a friendly gesture of kindness. There is only one way to find out.