The Lost Art Of Disagreeing

39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 

Acts chapter 15, verses 39 and 40, from the New Living Translation

The book, The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, was written over two millenia ago, but it is still read and studied. And it shows! But there has been an art that appears to have been both lost and forgotten. It’s The Art Of Disagreeing. And this shows as well. How should we handle those moments when Disagreement happens? Well, there’s something about this in The Bible, and in particular, the book we call Acts. Paul and Barnabas had a shared history. Here is is in a nutshell:

  1. Barnabas gets the apostles to accept that Paul had indeed been converted and was accepted by the apostles. (Acts chapter 9)
  2. Barnabas enlists Paul to help to teach the new followers in Antioch. (Acts chapter 11)
  3. God calls Barnabas and Paul to share the Good News in other places, and the church there blessed and sent them. (Acts chapter 13; note how they were identified at first: Barnabas and Saul/Paul, indicating that Barnabas is the team leader)
  4. It is Paul and Barnabas who go back to Jerusalem to settle the issue about circumcision. (Acts chapter 14)
  5. It is Paul and Barnabas who agree to return to all the places they had been to check up on the followers there. (Acts chapter 14)

And it is at this point when a Disagreement erupts between the two. Not just any ol’ Disagreement, but a SHARP Disagreement! It was so Sharp that this team that had worked so well together, went separate ways. Can’t speak for you, but I would say this was a seriously big Disagreement. Ever had that kind of Disagreement with someone or a group? Maybe it was with your best friend–and you became fiends instead of friends. Perhaps it happened in your family. Maybe in a club or group you were in; perhaps at work; perhaps at church. Wherever it happened, the results are very similar. Harsh words were spoken. Suspicion went wild.

And then the rest of the world heard all about how the friend became the fiend. But what if we simply followed the example of Barnabas and Paul? What if we went our separate ways without talking maliciously about the other? What if we focused on our daily walk with Jesus instead of the Disagreement? Does being angry and bitter contribute anything positive? Remaining focused on the Disagreement serves only to keep the wound open and festering. And who knows? If we simply allow the other to go one way and you another, eventually you might become friends again. But even if that doesn’t happen, at least you will be free of the anger and bitterness.

And now to my United Methodist Tribe; the time has come for our Barnabas and Paul moment. Our Sharp Disagreement isn’t doing either side any good. And this Sharp Disagreement is doing great harm to the work of The Kingdom of God. Allow the other side to go in peace and with grace. Then focus on what God is wanting from you and what He has for you to do. Tell you what, whether your Disagreement is with another person or with the UMC–let’s have a good ol’ fashion funeral. Bury that Disagreement and let’s move on. I leave you this morning with some sound advice from an old Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel. It came after a Disagreement between the Sanhedrin and some followers of Jesus:

“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

Acts chapter 5, verses 38 and 39, from the New Living Translation