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Contentions are Nothing New

Lately there has arisen some tension in the Greek Orthodox Church over a baptism that took place in Greece. I will not speak directly to that situation today, but it came to mind when I read today’s reading from the book of Acts. If you are worried about the tensions that are currently circulating, or if you are concerned that such tensions might destroy the Church, don’t fret.

IN THOSE DAYS, Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” And 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 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.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 contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15.35-41

It appears that Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas didn’t see eye to eye about who should travel with them to lift of the fledgling churches they had helped to establish. It seems that Saint Mark ‘had withdrawn’ at some point their company. Saint Paul must have thought unkindly to such a betrayal. Keep in mind that all had the same agenda, to spread the Gospel of Christ and His Church. All had deep faith as servants of the Lord, but they didn’t always agree on the details of ‘how’ to accomplish their mission.

That’s why the story came to my mind today. We act sometimes like the historic Church never experienced disagreements or frustration with each other. Today’s reading from Acts reminds us that such realities of human relationships have always, and will always, exist EVEN in the Church.

We also act like the ancient Church resolved such disagreements when they did occur, immediately. We can see from today’s reading that is also not the case. Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas split and went their different ways. We can also understand that Saint Paul spoke highly of Sant Barnabas in his letter to the Colossians.

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

Colossians 4.10-11

So, while the current tensions will make their way through the blogosphere and channels of Church polity, I’m for one am not concerned for the future of the Church. I believe the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church into all the truth since Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit isn’t about to stop now.

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