Let's say there is a husband and he goes crazy one weekend gambling away all of the family's money that was in their savings account, checking account, and maxed out all the credit cards. Radio personality and author Dave Ramsey, often finds this scenario on the other end of a nationally broadcast telephone call. When the wife asks about how restoration and forgiveness works in the world of finances, Dave often says that forgiveness is vital but we cannot forget. It seems that "forgive and forget" doesn't really work in the world where wisdom is needed. You can forgive that your spouse spent all the money, but they must earn your trust again. You cannot act like the money never disappeared. You have to establish new stricter boundaries in the relationship. At the end of Acts 15, we get some inside knowledge of a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. For us as readers, this is the first big disagreement between these two leaders in the early church. What is the disagreement over? Take a look:
36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 41 Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.
It seems that Paul is still bitter about the way John Mark parted ways with them on the first trip. Barnabas is ready to forgive and forget, Paul, not so much. In Acts 13 we simply read, "Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem." John Mark "left them". Luke (the writer of Acts) uses stronger language as to what really happened in chapter 15: "John Mark had deserted them". And here we are with Barnabas wanting to give John Mark another chance and Paul refusing. So who was right? I'm not sure. There are some positives that came out of the disagreement. Paul was able to mentor Silas and Barnabas was able to then solely mentor John Mark. Two groups can cover twice as much ground. We do read something interesting later on in a letter that Paul wrote several years later to a young pastor by the name of Timothy. He wrote: "...Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry..." At some point, Paul realizes that John Mark is worthy again to help. It seems that the relationship has been restored.
Restoration of relationships is at the heart of God's handiwork. What is worse...a person who does wrong to another or a person who won't forgive those that have done the wrong? Take some time today to ponder and pray for some of the fractured relationships around you. How can you be an instrument of restoration?
With sincere love for each of you,