When Friends Fall Out
36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers[S] in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 39 The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers[T] commending him to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Acts 15:36-41 | NRSV
Falling out with close friends? Sometimes it’s avoidable. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s not. In some cases, it’s merely a matter of the adversary orchestrating a perfect storm. Friends can reach a point, in what might’ve started as a very civil and constructive discussion, where neither party is listening to the other. At that point, the two parties are talking past one another, not to each other. What is the remedy? Each party alternates between listening and talking in a healthy conversation, maintaining the commitment to stay in relationship, while still acknowledging that there can be scenarios in which both parties are right, even though their respective opinions seem worlds apart.
No one would have ever thought Paul and Barnabas would split. They had been joined at the friendship hip for so long and through so many experiences. In fact, some of their mutual friends had begun to merge their names, Panabas, because they were so in sync and inseparable. However, there came the moment when the two disagreed vehemently over whether or not John Mark, a relative of Barnabas and an apprentice of Paul, would continue to work for them. Paul was disappointed in John Mark’s performance and wanted to fire him, while Barnabas wanted to extend his contract and give him more time to develop. Truthfully, they both were right as a matter of principle, although they had different philosophies and practices concerning talent development. At the same time, both were wrong in how they handled the disagreement. Each placed being right over staying in right relationship. Consequently, the two friends split, moving in very different directions: Paul enters into new territory and Barnabas goes back over familiar ground. What a loss! Sounds like each of them could have benefited from the wise counsel of the Apostle James (James 1:19-20). I wonder whether or not either thought of texting, emailing or calling the other during their time apart. If so, what kept them from reaching out to the other? If the thought of reconciliation didn’t cross either of their minds, why not?
What about you? Do you miss a friend that you have been out of contact with because of a big blow-up? How long has it been since the two of you talked? In the light of day and with some distance, does the matter over which you two beefed seem more important than the bond you once enjoyed? You’ve been right long enough. Why not be back in right relationship with your friend with whom you once had so much in common and so much chemistry? Your friend will be glad to hear from you, and even as the two of you overcome the initial awkwardness, you’ll be glad too. More importantly, God’s heart will be made glad!