But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.Ephesians 2:13-14
We all build fences. It is an essential part of the human condition. We categorize and re-categorize ourselves and others over and over again in order to protect our fragile egos and in order to minimize any complex thinking required to really see others. We are quick to identify differences which separate us and we “otherize” anyone we do not agree with or do not fully understand. We build fences. And we do this within the church.
Apparently, the single most effective tool for breaking down fences between people or groups of people is to identify a bigger, more important dividing line. Having found that more significant division, most of the smaller ones suddenly seem less important and may dissolve altogether. You have experienced this.
Take, for example, the deep, deep political divide the United States was experiencing after the 2000 Presidential election…the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Does the term “hanging chad” ring a bell? Remember how very deeply this country was split right down the middle? We had almost a full year of political fights over those election results. But then, on September 11 of the following year, the greatest catastrophe this country has ever known was inflicted upon us. Suddenly, those deep, deep dividing lines seemed unimportant, because now there was a much bigger, more important dividing line…one that ran between this country and its terrorist foes. This country has never been more “unified” than in the days and weeks immediately following that event. Democrats and Republicans became …
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 honestly cannot even imagine how difficult being on a mission trip with the apostle Paul would have been. It seems to me you would be hard-pressed to find a more driven, intense “missionary” in the entire Bible than Paul. He seems to have worked tirelessly through very long days and he seems to have pushed himself and his fellow laborers to extremes. Being on mission with Paul would not be for the faint-hearted. So, just between you and me, I don’t blame young John Mark one bit for bailing on Paul in Pamphylia. I am sure that young man felt utterly overwhelmed by it all.
But oh what I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall during that later conflict between the two teachers, Paul & Barnabas, over this very incident. Paul would have argued vehemently that the mission field is no place for quitters and that he had no time to be babysitting when he could be out teaching. He would have pointed out that John Mark literally left them holding the bag when he quit on them in the middle of that mission trip. Barnabas, ever the …