AND THEY PARTED WAYS

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In Acts 15 we get a lovely glimpse into a group of believers, trying to figure out what to do with the message they have been entrusted to deliver to the world.  Leading up to this moment, we had people traveling in different directions, different routes sharing the gospel.  They were instructing new believers on what they need to do, in order to be saved.  There were discrepancies that would come up as the gentiles would ask them questions, each person answering from his own perspective and opinion.  They brought their issues to the Pharisees who would weigh in on the matters.  Finally a council of elders & apostles met to discuss this situation.

After some time and discussion and prayer, Peter would address the group and give a response of grace.  Peter ultimately points out that it would be foolish to put the same rules upon the gentiles that the Jews were unable to uphold.  Barnabas and Paul shared about the miracles they experienced in their times with the gentiles.  James affirmed that God had declared that the gentiles would be His, as well.  Then under James leading, and in accordance to the Holy Spirit, the drafted a letter that would clear up the matter.  It would be sent out to all the cities.  The matter was settled.

Now, some time later, Paul tells Barnabas that he thinks it would be a good idea to go back through the cities and follow up on the letter.  And then it happened, they had a disagreement.  They both agreed that they should go, but they disagreed on whom should go with them.  It was such a heated disagreement, that they actually parted ways.

Both men had the same goal in mind, however they were in disagreement about the manner in which to go about it.

Sound familiar?

If you have served in ministry, you may have experienced this.

If you work in a company, you may have experienced this.

Even in relationships, you may have experienced this.

The interesting thing here is that the scriptures don’t point out that either man was wrong.  Both of these men were fundamental leaders in the early church.  However, they were in such disagreement that they could no longer be in each others presence. Yet, they would continue from that departure, each doing the work that the Holy Spirit would lead them to do.  Both important parts of the body, same goals, but a different way to accomplish that goal.

Their separating ways was a good thing, allowing the work of the Kingdom to be broadened.

There will be times in our life, in relationships or in service, where we are in disagreement.  Sometimes, that disagreement is something that needs to be reconciled and repaired.  However, there are occasions where that disagreement is a divine intervention, that calls both parties to separate ways.  Simply because their tasks are no longer to be completed together.  God may be ready to move us into new directions.  We can’t move toward new directions if we are digging our heels into our current location.

Acts 15: 39b -40

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.

As they chose their traveling companions and left to strengthen the churches, they were praised and given well wishes by the believers.

The important thing here is not that that they departed ways, but how they departed ways.   We are not given any indication that they left with malice toward each other, or that their relationship was broken.  In fact, they were each praised by those who were seeing them off.  Throughout the scriptures we are told that we are to reconcile to each other and to God.  Reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean going the same way.  It means we can go different directions with love, respect, blessing and hope for each other.

Lord, thank you for your word that continually teaches us through example on how we should treat each other in our relationships and our departures.  Each and every example in your word points us to Christ and our need for a savior. Thank you for your word that never fails.  Amen.

Suggested Reading:  Acts 15

I HAVE A PET PEEVE

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I am a person who will read bumper stickers.  Pretty much whatever is ahead of me, I’ll look.  I will admit that I have been known to even position myself in traffic, if one catches my eye that looks interesting, in order to be behind the person at the traffic light.  Maybe it is the reader in me, that is compelled to consume words.  Or, perhaps, it could be simply my humor seeking out something to make me chuckle.  Occasionally, I shake my head for wasted time.   Then there are the times, my jaw will drop and I hope that none of my children we reading along with me.  To this day, I don’t believe my children know that I am reading bumper stickers at traffic lights.  I do try to keep my crazy under wraps, as much as possible.

There is one pet peeve I have, in regards to bumper stickers.  It is when I see a bumper sticker that alludes to the driver being a Christian, particularly when their behavior on the road is anything but Christ-like.

I’m a fairly good driver, if I do say so myself.  I can drive an automatic and a manual.  I can parallel park, near perfectly, despite the fact I only have to do it about once a year or so.  I’m not overly aggressive, nor timid.   I don’t rake up tickets or have lots of accidents.  People are not afraid to drive with me, and in fact I have taught quite a few people how to drive.   But, I am also human.  Which means that it is entirely possible that I might make a mistake.

Each day, I drive our three children to three different schools.  I then make the same run in the afternoon.  My children are in 3 different schools, but, I actually pass through a total of 6 school zones, twice per day… five days a week.  Yesterday, as I was on my final trip home, my daughter had asked me a question & I was thinking through the answer.  What I didn’t realize is, in my distraction, I had mistaken the speed limit sign for the “End School Zone” sign.  (Both are white, rectangular signs with black lettering)  So, I began to accelerate to the normal speed limit for that area.

That was when the man, who had the “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker on his truck, rolled down his window & began to yell and wave his hands at me.  Yes hands, plural.  Meaning he didn’t have his eyes on the road, nor did he even have a single hand on his steering wheel.  All the while, his daughter is in the seat next to him.  Yelling, at a woman in a car with her daughter.  At first I really had no idea what his commotion was about, then I saw the actual end zone sign.  I realized my error.

I wondered after the incident….

Did that scare his daughter?  Did he care that it scared my daughter, and potentially me?

Did he not realize that he was just as guilty of making a mistake as I was?

Did he not think that instead of yelling at me, he could have waited until we were stopped at the traffic light, rolled down his window… motioned to me… and calmly said “Hey, you know that you were still in a school zone?”.

Did he really think it was appropriate for a man to speak to a woman that way in the first place?

And then, I thought about his sticker…. and wondered….

Did he realize that every where he drives in that truck, where that sticker is plain for all to see, that he is a public witness to Christ?

Is that how Christ would have talked to me, to anyone?

Is that how we want to represent Christ to the world, when we make a spectacle of our selves like that?

The word says:

James 1:19 — My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Proverbs 14:29 — Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Psalm 37:8  — Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Proverbs 222:4  — Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered

That was just a sampling of the scripture that warns us against our anger toward others.  Scripture also offers us the suggestion of how we are to treat others, such as:

Ephesians 4:29 — Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We are supposed to forgive as we are forgiven, to extend mercy and grace in the same measure (if not more) than it has been extended to us; and we are supposed to help each other by guiding, shaping, building up, redirecting, mentoring.

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

There was nothing wrong about this man choosing to address the mistake I made, but there was definitely error in the manner in which he did it.  The world was watching, because we were not to the only two people on the road.  There were cars around us.  I bet they saw that bumper sticker too.

Which reminded me of another situation I saw recently.  A man was wearing the t-shirt of a ministry he works with in the local grocery store.  It was vivid and caught my attention, but only after I heard this 40+ year old man yelling and berating his elderly mother.

When we walk out the door in that Christian t-shirt, or drive off in our car with the Jesus fish bumper sticker…. we are openly professing our faith & people are watching.

What do they see?  Do they see Christ in you?  Are they blessed by their encounter with you?

Or, do they see something else?