It’s so easy for us to forget about the kindness, mercy and grace that were extended to us as guilty sinners! We find a virtue that we want to defend and then we tend to forget about all the others that need to be defended and practiced with equal enthusiasm. Someone may have failed us and proved themselves unfaithful… It’s attack time! Faithfulness needs to be defended! But we forget about mercy, forgiveness, and patience and either push them into the background or shove them into a garbage can. Unfortunate! Sad! Even hypocritical! And we can all be culpable… even Apostle Paul was!
I read the unfortunate account this morning in my Bible – a deep scar on an apostle’s legacy and wound on a close relationship between two influential church leaders… (Acts 15:36-41)
“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.’ Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and … traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. (from the New Living Translation)
It would have been interesting to have heard the heated conversation between Paul and Barnabus! I think Barnabus might have (could have – even maybe should have) reminded Paul of his past (read his own admission of his sin and testimony of God’s grace and patience with him in 1 Timothy 12-17!) Not only that, Barnabus had every right to remind Paul of the risk he took defending and standing by him after his conversion when everyone doubted the reality of his transformation. (See Acts 9:26-28) But it’s so easy to forget those things when we’re “ticked off” about how someone else in a moment of fear or temptation has failed us or the cause of Christ. It’s also interesting that Paul was the very one who wrote the following message in two epistles: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, FORGIVING EACH OTHER, AS THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU.” (Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 4:32) (Methinks that was probably written after the John Mark situation and after deep reflection on the grace of God… I want to think so!)
So I guess the deal for me today – the day after Thankgiving – is this… I want to be grateful and very aware of the incredible patience and grace of God in my life! And I want to extend the same patience and grace to others who are seeking sincerely to follow Jesus. And I certainly don’t want my zeal for one virtue to blind me to other, equally important virtues! One more… it’s tragic when we allow differences over how to deal with various situations as Christians to risk damaging valued relationships!