The Breakup


Ryan Hayden Acts

I love to read biographies. I read a lot of them. I'm reading one right now about a missionary to the middle east. Do you know what I hate though? I hate reading a biography that makes a person out to be faultless. I've read many biographies where the author's intent wasn't to tell the story of someone's life - it was to make that person some kind of larger-than-life saint. The fancy word for that is "hagiography." I hate hagiography.

Do you know why?

Because no one is really like that. No. One.

If you actually knew Abraham Lincoln or George Washington or Amelia Earhart or Charles Spurgeon or whoever - you might think they were kind of a jerk. Of maybe they smelled funny. Or maybe they couldn't match their clothes. Or maybe they had weird habits. Because no one is perfect.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it doesn't give us hagiography. When it tells us about men, it portrays them as men. Not as giants. Not as statues of perfection. Men. It tells us about David's adultery, his parental failures, and his failed marriages. It tells us about Moses' temper and his rough relationship with his wife. It tells us about Esther's reluctance to rush into the throne room for her people. It tells us about Peter's denial of Christ and when Paul had to confront him because he was being hypocritical. It gives us people lumps and all.

Our story this morning is a great reminder of that. Truthfully, if I were writing this - I don't know that I would give this detail - but I didn't write it, God did, and He did it for our learning.

Let's read Acts 15:36-41 with me:

"[Act 15:36-41 KJV] 36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, [and see] how they do. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches."

This story is pretty simple, it doesn't take a lot of explanation. So far, Paul and Barnabas - or really Barnabas and Paul - have been going around starting churches and evangelizing the lost. They are the dynamic duo. The first missionaries.

Paul is the super-educated persecutor turned super-missionary. Barnabas, the Levite, is the encouraging, godly guy willing to do anything for the cause of Christ.

They seem like they are inseperable. Like they are going to last forever. Then Acts 15 happens and we are like "I didn't see that coming."

It's like batman and robin or the lone ranger and tonto have a breakup. No one expects it. It's like Kevin Durant going to Golden State. No one sees it coming and it isn't going to be a pretty split.

Here is what happened:

The decided it was time to go back and visit the churches they had started.

Great. All good. No problem. Let's do it.

So Barnabas says, let me go get my cousin John Mark and we'll bring him along again.

And Paul says "No. Way. Don't you remember what happened last time. He abandoned us. I'm not bringing that flake with us again. What if we get in a tight spot, is he going to abandon us again. We are better off without him."

And Barnabas says "I really think we should bring him"

And Paul says "No. Not going to happen."

And they Bible says:

"And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other:"

They blew up and then they broke up.

Paul picked a new partner - Silas and Barnabas took John Mark and they split up and went different ways and just like that it was over.

Now, this is in the Bible. It's in there for a reason. What does God want us to learn from it? Let me give you six lessons.

The first one is this:

1. Saved people aren't perfect. (even apostles)

Isn't it kind of shocking to see this about the apostle Paul? We love the apostle Paul. He is a great Christian man. Maybe the greatest Christian man in the bible.

And then Barnabas. Barnabas was such an encourager. Remember, it was Barnabas who went and got Paul when no one else at Jerusalem trusted him. When everyone thought he was a spy. Barnabas was the one who vouched for Paul. He was the encourager. The nice guy.

Yet, it turns out, both of these guys seem pretty hard headed here. You would think that after all they had gone through they should be able to work something out - to make some kind of compromise - but no. They didn't. They blew up.

And to me, this is just a reminder that the best of men are men at best. Nobody's perfect. Everyone has their lumps. Everybody has their quirks.

You here people talk sometimes about "the perfect church" - there are no perfect churches because their are no perfect people. If this church was perfect it stopped being perfect when you got here. I could say that about anybody in here.

You here ladies sometime talk about finding "the perfect man" - mr. right. But are they Miss right? If they are honest they'd say no. Nobodies perfect.

Now, listen - that's no excuse for us to not TRY to be. That's not to be an excuse. But it should be our expecation. David said in Psalm 39:4

"LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am."

We are all frail. All flesh. All imperfect.

A second lesson we can learn from this is...

2. Conflicts happen. (even with godly people)

My pastor and boss back in Tennessee served the same church for over 40 years. He would always joke that he had started 8 churches in the Athens, TN area - none on purpose. Conflicts.

I've met people here. In Mattoon. Baptists. Christians. Who are still mad about stuff that happened 40 years ago. Conflicts.

Conflicts happen. Conflicts will always happen. It's part of being a human being. Anytime you have two people with two wills and you put them together in one place you are going to have conflict.

Now, there are certainly things we can do to avoid conflicts - but we'll never make them go away altogether.

The third lesson I think we can take from this might surprise you:

3. Sometimes both people are right. (even though they can't see it at the time.)

You see. Think this through with me.

Look at it from Paul's perspective: They are doing great work. It's dangerous. They are being thrown in jail and risking their life and visiting hostile people. John Mark has already abandoned them. It's just not wise to take him with them again.

That makes sense - right?

Now, look at it from Barnabas' perspective: John Mark is a godly young man. He wants a second chance. Maybe he needs an encouragement. He knows what to expect. He's not going to do it again so easily. He already knows the ropes. Aren't we supposed to be "forgiving one another and forbearing one another?" Wasn't it Paul that said that?

That makes total sense too.

I think they were both right. Both had good points.

Church, one of the wisest things we can learn is that when their is a conflict - it's not a zero sum game. It's not a win-lose thing. It's not always "one of us has to be right." Sometimes, both of us can be right and some yielding has to happen.

<rabbit-trail> Can I veer off subject for a second and say something I think is related and very important:

We are totally losing the ability to have any kind of conversation in our country. We've totally stopped trying to compromise with people who don't agree with us. We've totally lost the ability to empathize with others at all and to think about where they are coming from.

Look - we've had a rough week in this country. The two black men who were shot by police on camera. We don't know the details yet - but it looks bad. Then the dozen police officers who were shot in Dallas. We've had the major party nominee absolutely excoriated by the head of the FBI. We've had mass shootings.

I remember watching a documentary about the end of the 60s: The race riots, the riots at the conventions, the assassinations - and I thought "Man, I'm sure glad I wasn't there." Well, we are there now church. We are there now.

And do you know what we need? Do you know what we desperately need. We need people who can see others through God's eyes. Not as democrats or republicans or as blacks or whites, but as people Jesus died for. As fellow fallen human beings who are right about somethings and wrong about somethings. As people who need a savior.

Sorry. Rabbit trail over. </rabbit-trail>

Back to the point -conflicts are going to happen. Sometimes there isn't a right party.

Let's move on to the fourth point - and from here on out it is a lot more encouraging:

4. God is sovereign (Even in conflicts.)

Do you know what happened here? Two good people had a breakup.

Do you know what else happened in this story? God took one missionary team and turned it into two.

Maybe, just maybe, this conflict was God's way of moving these people apart so that He could do more with them seperately.

You know, when an eagle is teaching it's babies to fly - it will take their nest, which is really comfortable, and start turning up the twigs and sticks so that it's uncomfortable to prod them out. Some people need to do that to their grown children.

I think God is big enough that maybe He was twisiting some twigs in the Paul-Barnabas nest so that He could better use them both elsewhere.

Look, you might have to deal with conflicts today and they might not be pleasant but someday you'll be able to look back and sing "my father planned it all." God is sovereign. Just trust Him.

The fifth lesson from this story is just as encouraging:

5. When we make mistakes, God isn't finished with us (Even if other people are.)

So the man at the middle of this story was Barnabas' cousin - John Mark. John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. He blew it. Paul didn't want to go back out with him.

But this isn't the last we hear about John Mark. Not by a long shot. God wasn't done with John Mark yet. In fact, John Mark had the privilege of penning one of the gospels. The book of Mark.

Look, sometimes in life we make mistakes. Big mistakes. We blow it. But that doesn't mean God is done with us, it doesn't mean that God can't use us.

It was after Moses killed an Egyptian man in anger that God used him to write most of the Old Testament and lead his people out of Egypt. It was after Jacob deceived his father and father in law that God gave him the honor of being called "Israel." It was after Peter blew it at Christ's crucifixion that he became the leader of the apostles.

People might be ready to cast you off - but that doesn't mean God is done with you.

One more lesson and we'll be done, and I think I've saved the best for last:

6. God can put it back together (even after a blowup.)

To get the coolest part of this whole story you have to turn to the last book that the apostle Paul wrote - when he was very near to dying. Turn to 2 Timothy with me and look at 4:11. Notice what Paul says here:

"Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee:for he is profitable to me for the ministry"

Here, Paul is at the end of his ministry. He's in a jail cell. He's facing death. Most people have abandoned him. Who does he call for? Who does he ask for by name?

Yes. John Mark.

Now listen, how about you? Is there anybody who you've had a conflict with and the relationship is strained? It doesn't have to be. God's big enough to fix it.


An old preacher once said

To dwell above with saints I love, that will be glory. To dwell below with saints I know - now that's another story.

We laugh at that - but the truth is conflict is just a part of it. We are commanded to forgive each other, to forbear each each other, to love each other and help each other - but sometimes we just can't stand each other.

Church, we just have to trust God to heal those strained relationships.

I heard a preacher say once

God isn't please with broken relationships.

That's stuck out to me for a long time.

Maybe you've let someone down. You've been a John Mark. You've never apologized. Let me tell you God can still use you. He's not finished with you yet. God can repair that relationship too. Just trust Him.

Maybe there is someone out there you need to forgive. Maybe there is someone out there you need to ask forgiveness to. Take care of it today.

Let me close by saying one more thing. All of us let someone down - all of us deliberately let down God. We broke that relationship. And He loved us so much that He sent His only son to die on the cross for our wrongs, and He wants to forgive us and restore that relationship. Trust Him today.

Let's stand for invitation and prayer.