Positive Separations

Acts 15:30–41

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 as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. (Acts 15:36–40)

Let’s be painfully candid here. I’ve had my own share of arguments, and you’ve had yours. I’ve had some that were never reconciled. Thankfully, most ended in a renewed friendship. I’ve learned through the years a few strategies that have proven effective in facing difficult disagreements.

1. When in a disagreement, work hard to see the other point of view. That begins with listening. Include in the formula three qualities that don’t come easily: honesty, objectivity, and humility. That’s the full package for handling conflict God’s way. None of that comes naturally. They come to full bloom as products of the Spirit-filled life.

2. When both sides have validity, seek a wise compromise. For those who were reared as I was, even the thought of compromise makes you bristle. If you’ve got backbone, you don’t give in. You stand firm, regardless. I appreciate an individual with backbone—true grit. But one who never bends, one who refuses to negotiate toward resolution? Hardly. I admire more someone who willingly and graciously seeks a suitable solution to disagreement, without in any way compromising biblical principles.

3. When the conflict persists, care enough to work it through rather than walk out. Slamming a phone down in the middle of a conversation or breaking through the screen on the front door as you stomp into the street solves nothing. Nor does a lengthy, manipulative silent treatment benefit either party. Or bolting from a marriage. Or quitting your job in a huff. That’s not how to handle disagreements. Work it through. Stay at it. It’s some of the hardest work you’ll do, but it’s also the most rewarding.

4. When it cannot be resolved, graciously agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable. I think Paul and Barnabas did that. Paul never takes a shot at Barnabas when he later wrote to the churches they had planted. In all of his letters, you’ll not find one slam against his former companion. And there’s no evidence of Barnabas licking his wounds either.

Honestly, not all separations lead to bad endings. Some of the greatest seminaries were birthed from a crucible of conflict. Some significant churches started as a result of an ugly split. It’s never too early to start moving on.

Phillip Melanchthon, that persuasive tempering force in Martin Luther’s life, put it best in these few words: “In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.”

Taken from Great Days with the Great Lives by Charles Swindoll. Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll. Used by permission of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. www.harpercollinschristian.com

Posted in Failure, Friendship, Pastors and tagged .

Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.