Acts Series #28
Conflict - Dirty Word or Opportunity?
Ok … I don't usually do this … but let me tell you a few stories I heard this week …
JOKE - two blondes are watching the 10:00 news … the announcer says "after this message the latest on that man standing on the ledge threatening to jump …" One blonde says "I'll bet you $20 he jumps" … 2nd blonde says "ok" … Well after the commercial … unfortunately he jumps … the girl gives her $20 but the 1st says "I can't take your money" The 2nd says "no it's yours" … the first says "no I saw that story on the 5:00 news and I knew that he jumped … so it wasn't a fair bet". The 2nd blonde says "that's ok I saw the 5:00 new TOO but I Never thought the idiot would jump a AGAIN!
Same two Girls … They are sitting together at a restaurant and one says to the other "here's to 17 days" … the guy at the table next to them says "Congratulations, what's special about 17 days?" The girls answer "we've spending every evening working on a Jigsaw Puzzle. The Box says 3-5 years … but we finished it in only 17 days!"
JOKE --- a husband and wife were disagreeing and neither would give … finally the wife said "I'll admit I'm wrong if you'll admit I'm right … the Husband said "Ok, Ladies First" … "Ok said the wife, I'm wrong" … the husband smirked and said "you're right"
JOKE - I overheard two guys talking the other day … the 1st guy said "My wife and I had a HUGE fight the last night"… "How did it end" his friend asked … "Oh it ended with her crawling on her hands and knees to me" … The second guy said "really … what did she say" … The Husband said … "she said, get out from under the bed you big chicken"!
Conflict … the word means … fight, battle, war 2 competitive or opposing action, antagonistic state or action 3 the opposition of persons or forces that give rise to dramatic action
It comes from words mean "to strike together"
Who LIKES conflict? Most of us don't … Some of you do … some of you would pick a fight just for the sake of something to do
But MOST people Do NOT like Conflict … So … that brings us to our question for today …
Conflict … a Dirty Word or an Opportunity?
Now I've been a Pastor's son all my life and I've seen plenty of NEGATIVE conflict in church business meetings and church hallways for that matter …
I've known some business meetings that came to blows …
I've had my own share of negative conflict
And in churches it is to the point that what we many times is … COMPLETELY AVOID conflict …
We avoid going deep enough in relationships to deal with anything …
But is conflict a dirty word or an opportunity?
Let's read our Text in Acts 15:36-41
Let's make sure we know the back story here …
Who are these guys? …
Bottom line Paul Mature Godly Anointed Apostle, a Visionary Leader and cut and dry, "tow the line" or "cut the line" kind of guy
Barnabas is also a Godly Mature leader, his very name meant Son of Encouragement … He had taken Paul to his side when no one trusted him and trained him and vouched for him with the young church
So who is Mark … he was later called "The Evangelist" … he died in Alexandria after being drug mercilessly behind horses through the city … hmmm doesn't sound like the guy that Paul says "no" about. He was probably of both Roman descent by his Father and Jewish descent by his Mother. His Jewish name was John and Roman name Mark or Marcus. His Mother's name was Mary, she was a woman of means and influence and Mark may have been born in Jerusalem, at least they had a house there. It probably was the house of the upper room, but was at least the house where they early church and disciples met. It's where the were praying when Peter was in Prison … Peter must have been the one who led Mark to Christ because he refers to him in 1 Peter 5:13 as his "Son". But Mark, was impetuous but not always bold. It was probably Mark who followed Jesus and the disciples at a distance into the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death with only a robe around him. When he was discovered as they arrested Jesus he Ran away leaving his Clothes in their hands running away naked. (Mark 15:51,52)
In Acts 12 Mark is taken along to help Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel. In Chapter 13:13 though, Mark LEFT … as Paul described it, he DESERTED them … we don't know much more but from our passage today … he let Paul down.
Perhaps he left scared, perhaps he left because he didn't like the life of ministry, perhaps he left because it was too much of the Gentile world for him too soon, but he deserted them and NOW, 3 years later, … Paul says "You can't go"
Bottom line … well he is a young, inexperienced, immature believer, a guy who says "yes" before he is ready to, who volunteers for things he's not qualified for and at this stage, quit when the going got tough
And this Created a Huge Conflict Between Paul and Barnabas …
Paul said … "the boy is NOT going with me" … "he is NOT ready" … "he is NOT reliable"
Barnabas said … "he needs to go", "he needs to try again", "he needs a second chance"
So quickly let me make some observations about this Conflict and the conflict we face …
Two sections and a Conclusion … Quickly
1. Section 1 - Some Words to Learn From
A. Some Words from Paul and Barnabas
1. Consternation -
a. it's ok to let people feel the deep frustration and even anger in a positive way and without sin …
b. Paul said "do not let the sun go down on your anger" -
c. Pent up anger does more damage than healthy disagreement and conflict
2. Condemnation -
a. by condemnation I'm really here talking about pronouncing a judgment or sentence for actions …
b. Consequences for actions are real and must be felt … we live in a world where no one wants consequences for their actions …
c. there are consequences often to our actions and it's ok to be held accountable and made to experience those consequences …
3. Consolation -
a. While condemnation and consequences are important in conflict … so is consolation …
b. when you've messed up you need an encourager … You need someone to come alongside, help you get up, help you clean up your wounds, discuss your mistakes … but help you get back to business … to lift your spirits and your confidence
4. Convocation -
a. in the midst of conflict … there was still work to be done …
b. BOTH sides in the conflict had to get busy … a convocation is an assembly … it is the act of convoking or calling to meeting … but it is also the official beginning of something …
c. These men both moved forward … assembled a team and began a mission for God
B. Some Words from Mark's side
1. Revelation - because of the action of Paul … Mark got a Revelation into the reality of his actions …
a. he is made to realize … others are counting on me … I'm not just here to watch … I'm bearing part of the weight and when I left … it hurt the group …
b. he realized … "wow, I didn't know that my actions had consequences that affected others beside just me"
2. Rejuvenation - "I may not be ready for the big leagues or the type of mission that Paul has … but that doesn't mean that I'm OUT …" There is STILL something that I can do
3. Restoration -
a. Because of Paul's pronouncement of consequences on Mark AND because of Barnabas' encouragement …
b. Mark not only got back in the game with Barnabas but he eventually got back in the game with Paul too … Col 4:10 served with Paul … 1 Peter 5:13 … Philemon 1:24 … he was serving with Paul … 2 Tim 4:11 Paul describes him as "useful"
4. Regeneration - When GOD is the center of our decisions … regenerations, reconciliation is ALWAYS the result. Paul says that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
a. that comes sure in Mark's reconciliation to the Lord in ministry, reconciliation to Paul in ministry but MORE important
b. PEOPLE without GOD being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, by the Ministry of Faithful ministers.
c. This resulted in GREATER presentation of the gospel. Instead of ONE team serving in one place, we ended up with TWO teams serving in two places …
2. Section 2 - Some Principles about Conflict
#1 People need to feel Disappointment and Failure and how it affects those who are depending on you
#2 People need to be Encouraged to Get up and Give it another Try
#3 Both Reprimand and Encouragement have a place in developing Character and leadership
#4 Division doesn't have to led to Subtraction -
a. division leads to subtraction when one or both of the parties are self-centered and building their OWN Kingdom and their OWN ministry / Reputation … So rather than Further the Kingdom in the midst of Conflict, instead of having their eyes on the Gospel they have their eyes on themselves and Subtraction occurs either because they LEAVE the MINISTRY or in the Conflict they seek to HURT the ministry
b. Division here produced addition of Silas to the Ministry as well as addition of the others that would have filled out the now TWO teams.
c. Division also produced Multiplication as MORE churches were visited and encouraged … As More towns heard the Gospel … because there were two teams. By the way they both went back to their heart … Barnabas went to Cyprus his home territory, and Paul went to his home Province Cilicia, which houses Tarsus his hometown.
d. Division doesn't have to produce Subtraction … Neither of these men, in my opinion was operating out of pride, selfishness or sin …
We can be divided on an issue without being divided from our unity in the body and in Christ.
Daniel J. Boorstin (b. 1914), U.S. historian
Disagreement produces debate but dissent produces dissension. Dissent (which come from the Latin, dis and sentire) means originally to feel apart from others. People who disagree have an argument, but people who dissent have a quarrel. People may disagree and both may count themselves in the majority. But a person who dissents is by definition in a minority. A liberal society thrives on disagreement but is killed by dissension. Disagreement is the life blood of democracy, dissension is its cancer.
e. the way this conflict was handled the result says a lot about the Character of Paul, Barnabas AND Mark. Any of them could have said "Fine, YOU go preach, if I can't have it my way, I'm done." But they didn't because they all wanted the gospel spread. So if they couldn't get together on THAT mission, they pursued another
Believe it or Not … they WERE unified, even in Discord, they were unified on the spreading of the Gospel
Unity is the Critical component to blessing on the body, the Pastor, and the spread of the Gospel through a body …
How Good and Pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
It is like oil poured on the head running down on Aaron (Pastor)
It is like DEW from Mount Hermon … in other words it feeds the people … it falls on mount zion … that is the church … and the Lord blesses for eternity … (paraphrase of Ps 133)
What happens with Mark? Well things went pretty well for him … Because of Paul's hard line and Barnabas soft line and the influence of his Spiritual Father Peter … Things came out OK for him.
The Holy Spirit of God thought enough of him to Breathe God's Word into his Life and allow him to write the very words of God in a Gospel written most Likely from Peter's perspective.
Yet, Paul's heart for Mark to be reconciled was accomplished as Col 4:10 finds him working again with Paul as does Philemon 24. And Paul calls him useful in 2 Tim 4:11 and wants to see him before he ends his life and ministry … while that's all we know of him in scripture, we know from history that he died in Alexandria behind horses and then died.
3. Conclusion - Who are You … Who / What do you need?
Let me say first of all that we need to be not afraid of conflict in the church … especially if we have put in the time to build relationships and can disagree, even be angry but without sin, with the focus of God's plan in our focus.
When there is dissension, misunderstanding, even wrong actions or sin, we need to deal with it upfront and honestly.
Do you relate to one of these men?
Paul a Visionary Strong Leader … willing to challenge, cast vision, hold people accountable and receive them back when conditions are met?
Barnabas - Son of Encouragement … One who will Encourage, Strengthen, Dry tears, Bind wounds, Carry, Prepare people for the next opportunity,
Mark --- Point of Conflict … you have messed up an opportunity, you are immature but hot hearted … you flame up quick and die out quicker … But you would like a 2nd chance …
You need a Paul who will set the Standard … You need a Barnabas to Encourage you along the way … you Even need a Peter who will can be a Father but can also relate and say "Son, I failed Jesus, you only failed Paul … You can make it, God can Forgive, you can Follow, you can Start over …
Be Honest and True about who you are
Let God lead you in conflict resolution
Be Open and Honest
Build the Relationships that will Withstand Conflict
Be Humble Enough to take what you can Get
Keep Your Focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spread it wherever you have the opportunity
Conflict … a Dirty Word … or an Opportunity?
That's up to You …
It CAN be an Opportunity for you to develop Relationship
To Develop Character
To Advance the Kingdom
For People to Know Christ
So … who's afraid of a little conflict?