Thoughts on Christian Friendship

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord (Acts 15:36-40).

I don’t know about you, but whenever I read this passage in the book of Acts, my heart always aches a bit. My heart hurts because genuine Christian friendships have always meant a great deal to me. And this story in Acts seems to be the one instance in the Bible in which there appears to be a tragic rift in a holy friendship: the broken fellowship between Paul and Barnabas. Even more, it seems all the more tragic since it involves two of the greatest pillars of the early Church. Perhaps one might even say that the Paul/Barnabas split is the first recorded “Great Church Split” in the history of the Christian Church—even before the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox split, or the Roman Catholic/Protestant Reformation split.

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