The pain of saying goodbye…

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Acts 15: 36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers 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 commending him to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

This is a very sad episode in what has otherwise been a very successful missionary partnership between Paul and Barnabas. Remember that it was Barnabas who vouched for Paul (formerly known as Saul the persecutor of Christians) when other believers wouldn’t trust him. Barnabas had sought Paul to help him lead the fledgling church in Antioch. It was Barnabas who joined Paul in giving testimony before the council in Jerusalem how the Lord was at work in mighty ways among the Gentiles, not just the Jews. The passage says the disagreement between them was “sharp”. The Greek phrase here can also be translated as “An intense, emotional verbal exchange”. Not good.

Is there anything that could have saved the partnership? Who knows. We know these were both devoted followers of Jesus, but they came to a place in their relationship where they simply had to go their separate ways. Two things come to mind for me this morning in this regard:

1. Sometimes relationship/partnership comes to an end, and a parting of company is better for everyone. I expect this was the case with Paul and Barnabas. I see this all the time in churches, including the church I lead. People within a community/family grow apart and, while regretable, the best thing to do may be for people to go their separate ways. As an extravert feeler (Myers-Briggs language) these kinds of separations are hard for me, but I’ve been around long enough to know that such partings are often for the best in the long run.

2. This story reminds me that relationships/partnerships should not be taken for granted, but should be cared for. I admit that I sometimes get so focused on the goal/objective at hand that I neglect relationships. Not good.

Key Question: I wonder, is there a key relationship in your life that is strained right now? Are you paying attention before it’s too late? Once a relationship is broken it can be very difficult to put back together.

Heavenly Father, give us grace to care for our relationships. Help us not to take them for granted. Also, give us maturity to say goodbye when a parting of ways is better for everyone. Finally, give us wisdom to know the difference. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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