Many of us assume that everyone we meet should like us. I have no such unrealistic expectation. How could everyone like me? After all, I don’t like everyone I meet. Of course, as Christians, I think we should make an effort to get along with everyone, including (or should I say, especially) each other, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything. However, there is no need to put ourselves in constant contact with someone we don’t work well with if we have other options.
Such was the case with Paul and Barnabas. Both Paul and Barnabas were dedicated servants of God. After Paul’s conversion he had a difficult time convincing Christians of his sincerity. And rightly so! Was this not the man who had been a vicious persecutor of Christians? It was Barnabas who persuaded the other disciples to give him a chance (Acts 9:26-28), and a friendship formed between the two of them. They even went on a missionary journey together.
Joining them on this journey was Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark (Colossians 4:10). For some reason, John Mark decided to return home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13), while Paul and Barnabas completed the mission. John Mark’s decision did not sit well with Paul. When another missionary trip was planned and Barnabas suggested taking John Mark again, Paul said “no,” and a “sharp contention” developed between them (Acts 15:36-41 KJV). Eventually they agreed to disagree and split up. Paul took Silas on his journey, while Barnabas went with John Mark.
Here were two servants of God who couldn’t agree. They decided to go their separate ways. We hear nothing about them bad-mouthing each other. They merely agreed to disagree.
The Bible does not say who was right or who was wrong in this instance. Paul and Barnabas prayed to the same God for guidance, and they reached different conclusions. The point is that in some situations there isn’t a right or wrong—just a different point of view.
Years later, Paul mentions Barnabas fondly in 1 Corinthians 9:6 as a co-worker for Christ. He even had a change of heart about John Mark. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Circumstances change and so do people. How many of us find ourselves eventually valuing someone we once had little regard for?
No matter how hard we try, we will not get along with everyone. The sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be. Agreeing to disagree can avoid conflict, prevent hasty conclusions and allow time to reevaluate situations. We don’t have to see eye to eye on every issue to live heart to heart.