In the book of Acts, there is a passage that often prompts one to ask, "Who was right? Paul or Barnabas?" (Acts 15:36-41).
Paul and Barnabas were partners together in spreading the gospel; traveling long distances, spending countless hours teaching and discipling new converts, and enduring persecution together. Certainly a deep bond was forged between these two men of God. And yet at one point in their ministry, they "had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company."
How is this possible? How could someone as supremely in love with Jesus as Paul part ways with his partner in ministry on bad terms?
When an argument or disagreement occurs among believers, do you typically take sides? Do you find that your natural inclination is to determine who is right and who is wrong in the matter? If so, you are not alone.
Surprisingly, it may not be possible for us to ever determine who was right and who was wrong in this scenario. But what if there is a deeper message? What if they were both right? What if neither Paul nor Barnabus were simply being selfish, or foolish, or stubborn? Instead, what if the Holy Spirit was directing both of them, but in opposite directions?
Paul and Barnabas had done great things for God together. Perhaps it was time to go their separate ways, each with a new disciple to mentor, and to reach a greater number of people than they could ever reach by staying together. It would not be surprising if through the course of time, Paul and Barnabas were able to see the hand of God in their dispute, and to acknowledge His plans are always the best.
If we become aware of a dispute in the body of Christ, before we decide who is right and who is wrong; before we jump to conclusions and start passing judgment; before we take sides and try to persuade others to our viewpoint; let's seek God and his purposes. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be led in all circumstances to bring glory to the Father.