Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. New Living Translation
Rub iron pieces together and sparks start to fly. The same happens when two people clash. This is what happened to the apostles Paul and Barnabas as they were about to set out on their second missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along, but Paul disagreed as Mark left them high and dry in Pamphylia. Mark was a deserter and not dependable — at least for Paul. Barnabas felt differently about Mark and the discussion grew to such a state that Paul and Barnabas eventually went their separate ways.
We see the apostle Paul again in Antioch as he rebukes the elder Peter no less. In Galatians 2:11 and 14, Paul rebukes Peter ‘in the presence of all’. Peter, one of the pillars of the church was corrected in the presence of other people. Yet, there is nothing written that Peter reasoned out or rebuked Paul. It seems that Peter humbly stood corrected.
We all face and will surely face conflicts and disagreements in our lives. The Lord God in His wisdom uses these to teach and mold us. Though Paul and Barnabas (with Mark) went their separate ways, Paul would, at a later time, trust and commend Barnabas and Mark to the believers. During their separation, both stalwart leaders learned valuable life and faith lessons which gave them the grace to reconcile to pursue God’s work.
God also used Paul and Barnabas’ separation for another good purpose as His Word was spread faster and wider. Paul with Titus preached the Gospel throughout Asia and Europe while Barnabas and Mark travelled and preached elsewhere. The incident also opened room for Paul to mentor Timothy and for Barnabas to mentor Mark.
Paul’s public rebuke of Peter was uncomfortable to say the least. But for Peter, being a recognized pillar of the church did not stop him from accepting correction from a brother. Peter’s spiritual maturity and humility opened his heart to be teachable. It is very encouraging to note that a characteristic of spiritually mature people is having a teachable heart.
For Peter and Paul (and later Barnabas), they faced differences and disagreements with the right attitude to resolve the issue. Their arguments were not for personal vindication but to correct a wrong that they may remain faithful and true witnesses and bearers of God’s word.
Iron sharpens iron and they get hot in the process and sparks fly. As maturing believers, we will inevitably sharpen each other through disagreements and conflicts — that we may, in the process, become better instruments in God’s toolbox.
Submitted & accepted in: www.christianonlinemagazine.com (for May 2013)