Acts 15:39 (NLT) Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus.
1. John Mark left Paul (Acts13:13) and returned to Jerusalem. Paul accused him of lacking courage and commitment. Now Paul and Barnabas argued and separated over asking John Mark to return.
2. Jesus still wanted Peter, even after Peter denied Jesus three times. Did Paul, great follower of Christ, fail to follow Christ’s example here?
3. Paul, in Romans14:1 (NIV), described this as a “disputable matter”. Disputable matters, according to Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, should not be argued or cause separation. Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark’s convictions to follow Christ and preach the Good News were the same.
Smoking, drinking, politics, women in ministry, and tattoos can be considered “disputable matters” and are not to be argued or cause us to separate ourselves from others. I had the privilege to worship and fellowship with a man with tattoos, who once made and sold crack, and was in prison. He had a true conviction and love for Christ. Me too! He turned his life over to Christ, studied His word, and wanted to serve God anywhere he could. Me too! He still makes mistakes, prays, and repents. Me too! He had tattoos, was in prison, and smoked. Not me, so forget it? Our convictions in Christ were the same although we had some “disputable matters”. Didn’t Christ eat with tax collectors? Then why can’t I fellowship with a person with tattoos, in prison, and smokes?
Yet, I have avoided talking to people who wore black makeup, body piercings, and dressed very differently from me. How “un-Christ” like of me. What if I learned, after meeting with them, that they worshiped cows? Then I am still to love them, even though we do not share the same convictions. However, by following Christ’s example of unconditional love and not ignoring them, I can show them Christ in me. Perhaps they may even remark, “So that is what a Christian looks like”.
Loving Father. Thank you for your patience and forgiveness when I do not follow your example. Please help me to always reflect your love. Help me to never argue or separate myself from others due to what Paul called “disputable matters”. Live your life in and through me LORD. Please forgive me when I lack the humility needed to serve you. Do with me what you want, I am yours. In your name I pray. Amen.