My Thoughts. . .
Sometimes a person believes contradictory things. He may not be aware of that condition. Someone may introduce a thought which that individual has not considered. He recognizes the possibility of being wrong. He now has two choices. He may correct that error or make excuses for it. The church and eldership in Jerusalem, as well as Paul, had decisions to make that were not easy. Though they were inspired by the Spirit, they copied Adam and Eve’s walk rather than that of Jesus.
If a person realizes he is wrong, he has a choice to make. Truth needs to be embraced. How far must he go in denouncing that contradictory position? How embarrassing will that confession be? Since he knows that his “faith” contradicts the truth, is he willing to live with that lie or embrace the truth?
A lifetime of belief is not easy to discard. The loss of friendship, reputation, success, and livelihood can affect the decision one makes. His decision can draw his family into a situation that may be very disastrous to all of them. The apostle Paul had to deal with that kind of condition. The Jerusalem elders informed him, “They (the church) have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:21). That was a lie and Paul knew it. Yet Paul did not defend himself nor correct those elders. He accepted the compromise they suggested. Why did he do that when truth was on his side? Luke does not supply that information.
Peter fellowshipped with Gentile believers until he heard members from Jerusalem were coming for a visit. Then he separated himself from that fellowship. Perhaps Peter was fearful of what those visitors might complain about with him being so cozy with uncircumcised brethren. Perhaps he remembered how negative the church had been when they heard he had gone to the home of an uncircumcised Gentile who was also a Roman soldier. Paul corrected him for his hypocrisy and the influence it was having on other Jewish brethren. That action was not easy. Peter’s fear led him from what had been right to doing what was wrong and influencing others to follow. Paul’s correction was not enjoyable either and such action has the potential of causing hard feelings rather than solving problems (Galatians 2:11-16).
Paul and Barnabas were close in their work and friendship until a relative of Barnabas left their mission group and went home early. Barnabas wanted to give the young man another chance, but Paul disagreed. Scripture states that there was a “sharp disagreement/sharp contention/tempers flared between them, so they parted company (Acts 15:36-40). Can you picture two brethren, with red faces, getting in one another’s face and raising their voices? When someone feels he is right and the other is wrong, watch out! Paul later confessed his judgment was wrong about Mark. However, we don’t notice Barnabas apologizing for his “sharp disagreement or temper” with Paul. Luke informs his readers about each man traveling with different people and going in a different direction.
Did John Mark disappoint Paul and Barnabas by leaving early? Yes. Were both Paul and Barnabas right in their convictions? Yes. Were they right in allowing their belief to develop as it did, with the results being a sharpness that divided them? No. Were those elders wrong for accepting the lying gossip about Paul? Yes. Did they repent? Luke does not mention it. They were under a lot of pressure from the membership even though the information they had was wrong. Was Paul wrong in not standing up to the elders and those who gave the wrong information? Yes. He stood up to Peter, why not those elders? These examples point out to us that no one is perfect. We all have our short-comings or sins. We make mistakes. We make bad choices. Some are life changing. Yet, despite our stumbling, God’s grace does not abandon us. Thank God for His grace and the provision of Jesus’ blood then and now!