Ministry Battles

D9D2E489-18C1-4001-A108-39329BDCF4D3“This successful life we’re livin’ got us feuding like the Hatfield
and McCoy’s” — Waylon Jennings

Every war had a beginning. KU-MU: the boarder war, started with Quantrill’s raiders attacking (killing 200 citizens) and burning the town of Lawrence. Once the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri began lacing up the hightops, the war has taken
shape on the basketball court. As a Jayhawk fan, I want to be honest
with you readers: we hate losing, but if the choice was between KSU
and MU, I would much rather lose to KSU than Mizzou! The Hatfield and
Mccoy Rivalry of the mid to late 19th century began over the killing
of a Union soldier after he had returned from the war. In the prologue
of Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliette, we learn that this is an “ancient
grudge” between the Capulets and the Montagues. One can only assume
what started that war. Was it wealth? power? fame? a spilt wine glass
on one of the cone things they wore around their necks?

The point is this: Every war has a triggering factor.

What if you were the triggering factor? What if you were the Helen of
Troy? The reason for the fighting. Homer’s Illiad (with huge nods to
other ancient historians) recounts the battle of Troy as Paris, the
Trojan Prince, has taken (as Sappho and Homer claim, others would
argue she was taken by force) Helen, the beautiful wife of King
Menalaus. This war was massive. Men from all over the world would
fight in this war. How would you feel if you were the cause? If you
were Helen?

This is the very dilemma that John Mark (know as Mark from now on)
faced in Acts. Though his decision would not cost any lives, he did
cause a schism in the team of Paul and Barnabs (or should I say
Barnabas and Paul?).

Mark was from Jerusalem. He had seen Christian Church from its
infancy. His mother’s house was a place of prayer and worship (Acts
12.12). Once his cousin Barnabas (Colossians 4.10) had taken a bigger
role in the ministry of Jesus, Mark knew he wanted in. Barnabas was
the one who had brought Saul into the mix with the apostles (Acts
9.27) here in Jerusalem. Now years later Barnabas and Saul ask this
man, Mark, if he wants to be part of the first missionary journey!
That’s like being asked to go to the moon, or if you wanted a
Pulitzer? Its not something you scoff at or hesitate on. You jump at
the first opportunity, just as Mark did.

The honeymoon period for missionaries doesn’t last too long. Soon the
newness wore off and Mark had a problem. What that problem was we can
only speculate. Perhaps it was the reallocation of power between Paul
and Barnabas (notice the names are now reversed, with Paul taking a
leading role for the rest of the book) possibly didn’t sit too well
with the cousin. Maybe it was fear. They were headed to a place
(Pisidia Antioch) known for its bandits. It could have been sickness
or a family crisis. For whatever reason, Mark leaves (Acts 13.13) to
return to Jerusalem.

This action doesn’t sit too well with Paul. When the idea came up
about returning to all the places they visited on the first missionary
journey, Paul and Barnabas began assembling a team (Acts 15.36). The
subject of Mark came up. Barnabas wanted him, Paul didn’t (Acts
15.37). He had deserted them in Pamphylia (Acts 15.38). The greatest
team of missionaries to the date was now split up by the disagreement
over Mark. Barnabas took Mark to his home of Cyprus and Paul took
Silas (Acts 15.39-40).

That had to be rough on Mark. To be the one who is fought over. The
one causing the dispute. Chronologically this is the last we will hear
of Barnabas. He isn’t mentioned again. How would you feel if you were
Mark? The dispute had to have some kind of lasting effects. Paul was
probably just as disappointed in him as he was that Barnabas wanted to
take him. These are the kinds of wounds that linger for some a
lifetime.

Though Barnabas fades away, Mark resurfaces. Nearing the end of his
life; perhaps just days or hours before his execution, Paul asks for
Mark to come to Rome with Timothy, because he is helpful to his
ministry (2 Timothy 4.11). Paul mentions him from an earlier
imprisonment in Colossians 4.10, and we have to wonder if the
instructions were about his rehabilitation for Paul? It matters not,
at the end of Paul’s life, he wants Mark to come to him! Paul just
spent time telling Timothy about those that have deserted him: Demas,
Crescens, and Titus. We aren’t sure of all the circumstances here or
whether they left on good terms, but needless to say, Paul is alone
(aside from Luke). Bring Mark!

So many times our arguments are final. All to often our differences
are relationship ending. We harbor resentment and anger; hatred and
aggression. Paul, during a hectic first missionary journey, was
deserted by a guy he thought he could trust! Like the rope that is
holding a mountain climber, often the resentment and anger are the
only thing that still attaches us to relationships. I don’t know what
Mark did to get reinstated or whether it was Paul’s grace and mercy
towards an old friend, whatever it was it is an example.

No
longer can resentment rule the attitudes of our heart. We may not
agree on everything, but no matter how great the wound, forgiveness
and understanding can fill it. Ministry philosophies and ministry
dedication differs; family troubles are handled differently by all;
and some people are just hard to get along with. They will abandon,
infuriate, and tear down. They will act apathetic, lethargic, and
illogical. Paul felt all these from Mark, but in the same way that
Jesus felt and bore all these as well, Paul found ability to forgive.

Bring Mark, for he is helpful to my ministry (2 Tim. 4.11)! The
original title for Mark was: “helper” (Acts 13.5). Good to know he
ended the same way he started.

 


“grab life by the horns and hope it don’t grab you back!”

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