Our series on the Good Life takes us into some dangerous territory this week. We’re going to talk about Differences. When I first saw that title I thought we were going to talk about diversity and how our differences make up the beautiful tapestry of the Body of Christ. Then I looked closely at the chosen texts.
The key text is Act 15:36-41. This is the story where Paul and Barnabas get into a huge fight over whether or not they should take John Mark on their second trip. Paul said, “No” and Barnabas–the son of encouragement–said, “Yes.” Their “difference” was so deep that they parted ways.
This is a painful story when you know the story that led up to it. Paul was a hard-nosed killer of Jesus-followers before he encountered Jesus and had a radical transformation. All the Jesus-followers were afraid of him and didn’t trust his conversion. It was Barnabas that stood up for Paul, welcomed him in, and got everyone to trust him. Paul and Barnabas went on the first Missionary journey together. They were both abused and mistreated for the name of Jesus together. They gave witness to the power of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles together at the Jerusalem council.
Now this. They have a disagreement that breaks up their friendship.
This is a painful story because I have experienced it in the church more often than I would care to admit. I have lived this story so deeply that the church we started in Las Vegas died because of deep disagreements. I’ve experienced best friends turning their back and walking away because of theological differences.
Hey, we’re Protestants, having “differences” and parting ways is part of our DNA. Luther posts his 95 “differences” on the chapel door 500 years ago and the church has been splintering ever since.
So, here’s my big question this week. Does it have to be this way? Do our differences have to divide us? Sometimes, sadly, they do. However, I think they don’t have to as often as we let them.
Another helpful passage for this week is 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. This highlights Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation. The ultimate goal of the Gospel is to reconcile all things to God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this sermon yet, but here is a video that I made last summer that I think speaks to the topic. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.