THEY SEPARATED FROM EACH OTHER
“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement (παροξυσμός), so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15: 36-41)
How very human is this “sharp disagreement” between church-leaders in those early times. It’s not about dogma, or about the Law, or anything like that. In fact a very important, disputed matter of the Law was resolved earlier in this 15th chapter of the Book of Acts, at the “Council of the Apostles,” without separating the Apostles. What brings two great pillars of the Church, Paul and Barnabas, to “separate from each other” was their human disposition: Paul didn’t trust “John called Mark” and didn’t want to bring him along, while Barnabas did. (I can just imagine the conversation, and Paul saying, “It’s him or me. Your choice.”) So they go their separate ways, but continue to do God’s work, “strengthening the churches.”
Divisions and disagreements happen between church-leaders, also for reasons that don’t make all that much sense to me. Because Christ entrusted Church-leadership not to angels but to human beings, specifically, men. Despite that awkward fact, His work continues to be accomplished, by grace, even in separation and unresolved, “sharp” disagreement. This is because today, like in those early times, church-leaders are “commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.” Glory be to Him for all of it.