Can We Disagree?


Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left… Acts 15:37-40

New York City radio host, Bernard Meltzer, once said that “if you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along—whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.” Meltzer’s down-to-earth wisdom reminds us that to disagree is no justification for becoming disagreeable.

In Luke’s record of the early church’s growth and expansion, two prominent leaders came to sharp disagreement over a young colleague, Mark.The text describes Mark’s earlier desertion during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). As Paul and Barnabas considered plans to visit and strengthen churches in the cities where they had preached, both had very different views on Mark’s ongoing role in their important work.

Paul, the former persecutor turned church planter, was the quintessential visionary, pioneer, and strategist. He had little patience for Mark and his lack of faithfulness. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” had a different view and was unwilling to give up on Mark. Ironically, it was Barnabas who successfully advocated on behalf of Saul (Paul) after his conversion, when he tried to join the wary and anxious apostles (Acts 9:27). In the case of Mark, who was right? Did this sharp disagreement between the two leaders (who were also friends and colleagues) ever get resolved?

Luke indicates that although they went separate ways, Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement neither ended their relationship, nor ultimately stymied the work. Their collaboration ended for a time, but their relationship did not.

Unfortunately this is not often the case. Our disagreements over practical strategies in ministry or work as well as political and social issues too often become personal to the point where simple disagreement turns into disdain and disrespect.

Paul’s ongoing missionary work, continued to bear fruit without Mark, and Barnabas’ belief in Mark bore fruit as well. Later on, toward the end of his life, Paul wrote of Mark in his letter to Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Tom Keppeler

PONDER: Is there someone you disagree with to whom you need to extend deeper respect and value?

Comments welcome below.

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4 thoughts on “Can We Disagree?”

  1. Father, the work of reconciliation is my offering made to you in the name of Your Son, thank you for freeing me from my prison of bitterness and now my perspective no longer comes from the cage of hatred…Lord Jesus, I want to be sure that I always make a sincere effort to live at peace with my brothers and sisters and that my motives are pure as I pursue the ministry of reconciliation…Holy Spirit, is there someone I need to reconcile with? Who have I devalued? Show me Lord, who have I shown a disrespect for? I truly am sorry and repent, Spirit of God lead me to anyone that I need to settle any differences with…To the glory of Christ Jesus and by his name…

  2. Disagreements come in all our lives and can be helpful and educational if we pursue a Biblical Godly answer with the help of the Holy Spirit.
    We need to approach everything with what would Jesus do or say in everything we do.
    Praying for God’s guidance is the way to approach everything that come our way.

    Prayers and Godly Love,

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