Everyone Has a Place
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Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed. (Ac. 15:37-40)
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The breakup of this missionary team is lamentable, but buried in the details is an important lesson that deserves more attention.
The friction between Paul and Barnabas centered around John Mark, a young man who had bailed on them during their first missionary journey. Paul was burned by that experience, and he refused to be saddled with this undependable coworker a second time. So Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, preaching the same gospel, but in different fields.
And John Mark? He later became a close associate of the apostle Peter. He wrote the gospel of Mark, widely recognized as a memoir of Peter's experiences with Jesus. He apparently served as Peter's scribe, and likely wrote the epistle of First Peter under his direction (1 Pet. 5:13). The young man whom Paul viewed as worthless deadweight eventually proved to be a key figure in the expansion of Christianity. By the end of Paul's life, even he acknowledged Mark's contributions to the cause, calling him "useful to me for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11).
Here are two men of vastly different temperaments: Paul, the classic Type A personality--aggressive, energetic, forceful, impatient, constantly in motion; and John Mark, the classic Type B personality--tentative, slow, reserved, lacking the stamina to keep up with Paul's pace. Even their writings reflect their personalities: Paul's epistles are deep and challenging; Mark's gospel is simple and unadorned. You could not find two men of more incompatible dispositions; yet God used both as instruments in fulfilling His master plan.
God's people today need to learn from this story. The kingdom is comprised of all kinds of people, Type A's and Type B's, bold warriors and quiet workerbees. Both serve a purpose in God's plan, each in his or her own way. These different character traits can easily become stumbling blocks to our cooperation, but we mustn't give in to that drift. We have to learn how to appreciate one another's unique talents as God does, rather than belittle them.
Everyone has a place in the Lord's family, whatever our temperaments. When we harness our differences under the same yoke, we work toward the same goal--and God is glorified.