Summary: Without question many of our most painful chapters in life have to do with soured relationships. That’s why we’re considering this in our final message in our series "When Bad Things Happen to Good People."
A 104 year-old woman was being interviewed by a Christian reporter. The reporter asked the woman if it was easier or more difficult to live the Christian life the older you get. The lady thought for a moment and said, “Well, there is less peer pressure.”
Some things may get easier as we get older. But no matter how old we are we’ll still have challenging relationships with people. The Apostle Paul was no exception. Turn with me to Acts 15:36 and we’ll read about this. As you find the passage, let me set the stage. As you may know, Paul started out as a fanatical Jewish leader with a passion to stamp out the newly emerging church. In pursuit of this passion Paul went to Damascus to imprison Jews who had become Christians. But before he reached Damascus, the Lord personally appeared to him in a blinding light. Paul was so shaken by this dramatic experience that he became a Christ-follower. Thus, the man who had been the chief persecutor of the church was radically transformed into a white-hot follower of Jesus Christ.
Not long after that, Paul went back to Jerusalem. But do you think the Christians were happy to see him? Not on your life! The believers thought Paul might have faked his conversion so he could capture some and throw them into prison. Only one man believed Paul. His name was Barnabas. Barnabas well-known in the church in Jerusalem and he opened the doors so Paul could meet the other apostles. From that point on a very special friendship developed between the two men.
Later on Barnabas was ministering in Antioch, which is in the area now known as southern Turkey. The church was growing and Barnabas needed help. So he went to Tarsus and recruited Paul. Barnabas and Paul served on the church leadership team in Antioch for a whole year. They evangelized and taught Scripture together. In every sense of the word, they were a close-knit Spirit-blessed team.
After about a year, the church in Antioch was fasting and praying and God directed them to send out Barnabas and Paul as the first missionaries. We read about this in Acts 13. After laying hands on them, Barnabas and Paul were sent out and they began to see God move in powerful ways. They cast out demons. They saw vast numbers of people come to Christ. They established new churches. Crippled people were healed. They were also persecuted on the trip; at one point Paul was stoned and left for dead.
By the time they returned to Antioch Paul and Barnabas were a dynamic duo. Not only were they friends, but they were also incredibly effective as a ministry team. In Acts 15 we read how they went to the Jerusalem Council and stood together against any corruption of the Gospel message. At that point, Christianity was only a few decades old and Paul and Barnabas were by far the most influential two-some in the early church.
That’s where we pick up the story in Acts 15:36. (Read) Wow…what happened? Paul and Barnabas had been such good friends. They were co-workers. They had played together. They had prayed together. They had traveled together. They had seen God’s power together. Then conflict hit. Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance, even though John Mark had deserted the team on their first missionary trip. But Paul didn’t want to run the risk; he wanted to leave John Mark off the team. The disagreement was so volatile that Paul decided to go one way and Barnabas went the other way. From the text, it appears like they didn’t even want to see each other again.
One obvious lesson from this incident is that relationships can go sour for even the best of us. No one is exempt. Someone once said that if two people agree on everything then you can be sure that one of them is doing all the thinking. We’re all different. Because we’re unique each of us has our own way of looking at things. That means we won’t always agree and that opens the door for conflict. That’s what happened to Paul and Barnabas. And I’m certain it’s happened all of us, as well.
Without question many of our most painful chapters in life have to do with soured relationships. That’s why we’re considering this in our final message in our series “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” During this series we’ve already considered three painful experiences: dealing with failure; how to respond when our world caves in; and how to overcome despair and hopelessness. All three of those circumstances are difficult, but this final message may include our most painful chapters of all. I’ve called the message: “When Relationships Sour.”