I want to circle back to the idea that the spotlight of God seems to favor certain individuals.
Another case study is the disagreement that ensued between Paul and Barnabas regarding Mark.
Acts 15:36-41 – Paul and Barnabas part ways.
Who was right? It seems that Paul was right because the spotlight follows Paul and Silas, Barnabas’ replacement, and we hear little about Barnabas.
First, I want to point out that this passage is true to life and it is these types of real-life details that give the biblical texts a mark of authenticity. You read this and you just say, there is a ring of truth here.
If the Bible was false and a mere fabrication, why would you include these types of scandalous details because it would seem to discredit the goal of the book, which is God’s love and unity among believers? You would include it because this is how we are. We are hot-headed, we are over-confident in our views and the history of the church has shown splintering and disagreements and factions galore.
Christians fight just like non-believers do. Churches split over doctrinal issues. That’s why there are so many denominations. Individual churches split into factions over non-essential issues. The Bible does not try to hide the stain of human sin. These are historical accounts that tell it like it is. As Christians, we have to be humble that just because we have Christ does not make us exempt from scandals and fights and splits. And we have to recognize that to the world, these scandals do hurt our witness.
But that’s not my main point here. Paul and Barnabas were not splitting over a serious doctrinal issue. It was a judgment call and it involved what to do with Mark. Mark wanted to join the missionary journey and previously he had gone on a mission and he ended up deserting everyone because I guess it got too tough.
And Paul didn’t want to take on a person he could not absolutely depend on. Barnabas, on the other hand, is related to Mark (Mark’s mom is his aunt) and he is the encourager so he is the nurturing type more than he is a mass evangelist.
So they disagreed and parted ways.
Who was right? This is not a black and white issue like Peter not obeying the vision from God regarding the Gentiles.
The world would define success as the person who makes the most impact. And comparing these two leaders, Paul seemed to have the greater impact, he saved more people, he wrote more books of the Bible, more children today are named Paul than Barnabas.
But you cannot say that Barnabas failed. He invested his life in one person, Mark, and one person is more valuable than the whole world. And his efforts were not in vain. Mark did come around, to the point that toward the end of his life, Paul asks for Mark in 2 Tim 4:11 and he commends Mark in Colossians 4:10 and asks the Colossian believers to be receptive to him. And Mark penned one of the gospels so he definitely had far-reaching impact for many generations and this was largely due to the love and care that Barnabas showed him.
I don’t think there was a right and wrong and I don’t think this is a case where God took sides and favored one of them. For a parent, if you go watch your kids performance, I can just say, it doesn’t matter who else is on stage, my eyes are fixed on my kid the entire time. It doesn’t matter if the spotlight is on someone on the other side of the stage and my kid is in the dark, I am watching my kid the whole time.
Likewise, God is our heavenly Father. And because He is God, he can give each of us total and absolute attention. That’s what makes Him God. He is unlimited in his ability to love. That means though the world may focus on the ones with talent, the movers and shakers of the Bible, God’s eyes are fixed on Paul who is taking center stage. God’s eyes are fixed on Barnabas who is laboring for a single soul in the background. And His eyes are on Peter, despite his slowness to get on the bandwagon and refusal to believe that the gospel is for all people, not just the Jews.
This gives me great comfort to know that no matter what I am doing, I am loved by God this much. He may seem silent or absent, I may make mistakes and suffer the consequences. But regardless of these things, God’s eyes are fixed on me because I am one of his children.