A few chapters back we discussed the benefits behind a healthy debate, if the right heart is behind the discussion. It seems that in Acts 15, we find two more examples worthy of evaluating.
To circumcise or not to circumcise?
Since the time of Moses, the Jewish people have always circumcised male children on the eighth day. When someone would convert to Judaism later in life, circumcision was still a requirement. Suddenly the Good News of Jesus is being shared to the Gentiles and there is debate if circumcision is still required. “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2)
With a healthy debate rising, and an honest heart to do what is right… they sought council. In the end, the council agreed that circumcision would not be required, but did request that they “abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (v 20b)
To take or not to take (John Mark)?
The same chapter ends with another disagreement that was not so easily solved (at least not in this chapter).
Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. – v 37-39a
While this disagreement was not resolved so easily, it was done so peacefully. “Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord” (v 39b-40). However we learn later in Paul’s journey that at some point this rift between Paul and Mark is handled. In fact it is handled so well that near the end of Paul’s life, Mark is who he asks for. “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11)
The point we can learn from both experiences is that debate and disagreement is healthy, when your heart is right with Jesus. Whether it means turning to a larger council to help discern the right path, or simply parting ways for a season, as long as your heart is focused first on Jesus, you can grow through the experience.
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