2 Kings 6:1‐7:20; Acts 15:36‐16:15; Psalm 142:1‐7; Proverbs 17:24‐25
We come today to one of the saddest passages in the New Testament — Paul and Barnabas parting ways over John Mark. It was Barnabas who spoke up for Paul at Jerusalem, vouching for his faith in Christ. We’re not told what caused John Mark to leave Paul’s group at Pamphylia and return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13), but Paul obviously considered it a significant failure and would not even have him as part of the traveling company.
It is some comfort to know that church splits are not new, and even Paul was not immune. But it’s not much comfort. The church where I came to faith in Christ, and that sponsored me for ordination, split over the selection of leadership. The church where I currently serve split some 10 years ago over its relationship to the Episcopal Church and this Diocese. I’ve heard the platitudes about how there are now two great churches proclaiming Christ where there once was one. I don’t buy it.
I believe it grieves our Lord when we fail to maintain the bonds of fellowship, regardless of how “right” we may believe the cause. We should remember that not everything reported in Scripture is for us to emulate. As important as Paul is, he was not Jesus. We’re not told enough to assign blame here, and that is just as well. But we are reminded that even in the midst of our human failings, God continues His work, and for that we can give thanks!
The Rev. Eric Turner
St. John’s Episcopal Church