Sermon Summary - Loving During Personality Clashes - Acts 15:30-41
Loving During Personality Clashes
The reality of different personalities in marriage and the church is important to realize and understand because there will always be disagreements. It’s important for us to be aware because the command to love one another is the second commandment, according to Jesus, which is also tied to the first commandment, to love God with all your heart. Luke tells us about a clash that led to the disintegration of a close working relationship between two friends who worked together as teachers and preachers. Luke was real and wrote about the separation of Paul and Barnabas who were two distinct Christian persons, with different personalities, without choosing sides. This gives us hope because God still uses broken people for His glory. Even though they separated, Paul kept and had respect for Barnabas’ work and eventually used Mark for his ministry.
Paul and Barnabas had been in Antioch preaching the word for some time. Paul thought it would be good if they returned to the cities where they had preached before, but a sharp disagreement came when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark. Paul thought best not to take one who had left them before. This was not a matter of spiritual maturity or a theological issue but of two distinct personalities. It was a practical issue of gospel ministry. Paul was a macro thinker, looking at the forest, the big picture of missions being done in dangerous places, he did not want someone like Mark to leave them in the middle of their journey like he had previously done before (Acts 13:13). Barnabas was a micro thinker, looking at the trees, at people who were precious to him. Barnabas being the son of encouragement easily extended grace towards Mark and his mistake of leaving them in a previous journey. He saw the potential in Mark and wanted a second chance for him. Both Paul and Barnabas had good points about Mark but their unique personalities led them to see the situation differently, which led to the separation of their ministry. Barnabas was eventually correct about Mark when Paul writes about his need for him and how he is very useful to the ministry (Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11). It is often in this context of different personalities, in church and marriages, where we can be sinfully stubborn.
The translation for sharp disagreement is to provoke. Luke’s point is that they both crossed the line in their sinful anger. Darrel Bock’s commentary says that the term for provoke in Greek, when used negatively, describes anger, irritation in a disagreement. This word is also used in God’s wrath which shows how strong in force the term can be. This was a major disagreement.
What we see in this situation is that a person’s strengths can also expose their weakness. Paul’s strength was his determination to spread the message of the gospel no matter the cost. His weakness was his struggle to work with a weaker man like Mark who wasn’t quite ready yet. Barnabas’ strength was his ability to encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, and extend grace to those who needed to be comforted. His weakness was to confront people who crossed the line. The biggest lesson here is to know your strengths and weaknesses. A Christian can be gifted with discernment, but they can easily fall into the sin of judgmentalism. Someone who is strong with mercy, grace and interpersonal relationships may easily tolerate serious sin and doctrinal error. Someone who is gifted in logic and problem solving may forget there are people with real feelings. Strengths are beautiful when used for the glory of God, but they come with corresponding weaknesses. Know yourself and your weaknesses, and don’t let them become sin. The good news about this passage is that God used and continues to use messed up people.
The body of Christ is not formed like cliques are in high school, we don’t choose our own peer group. It is based upon the miracle of new birth that brings people of different cultures, personalities, strengths and weaknesses together. If and when we clash with another believer, don’t assume God is not working, it is very much God’s plan for our growth. “Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
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