Galatians 2:11-14 and Acts 15:36-40 have something in common and it’s actually very pertinent for today.
The Two Biggies
In Galatians Peter and Paul go head to head. Two biggies among the early believers.
Peter – the head of the disciples and one of the three pillars of the Jerusalem Assembly. Peter walked with Jesus for three years, kind of a big deal.
Paul – the most famous missionary to walk this planet and a formidable personality to say the least. He also is responsible for numerous books in the New Testament. Also kind of a big deal.
That these two would disagree over anything seems amazing. If anyone should have been in close contact with God, closely aligned with the Holy Spirit, and able to see the truth in most situations, I would have thought these two.
And yet in a key area, they were on opposite sides. What exactly they were disagreeing on is a teaching for another day. The point here is that these two strong believers disagreed, strongly.
And God let them disagree! He didn’t jump in to save the day.
We do not get any sense of resolution in Paul’s recounting of the events in Galatians. In fact, some commentaries believe that Paul lost that round because of the way he tells the story. Peter had the last word and Paul did not for one moment agree with him.
Yet it would appear, according to Scripture, that Paul actually was right. And eventually the Lord worked on Peter’s heart and changed his mind. And hopefully, there was reconciliation between these two. But it may have taken years.
The Dynamic Duo
The story in Acts tells of another discussion, ahem argument. But this time between Paul and his good buddy Barnabas. And according to Acts 15:39 they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. I’m guessing there were hard things said on both sides and the parting of the ways wasn’t a “we’ll agree to disagree” idea. In fact, we have no idea if Paul and Barnabas ever reconciled.
If anyone could have disagreed in love we would expect these two. Barnabas supported Paul from the beginning. The journeys they went on, the miracles they saw, the persecution they faced would have forged a friendship that nothing could come between. So you would think.
Who was right, and who was wrong? We’re not really sure. Or maybe no one was. Maybe this was honestly a gray zone that would have been ok either way.
Two very different circumstances. Three men who were all obviously believers, walking with the Lord, hearing His voice, desiring to do His will, wanting to see the Gospel proclaimed and lived out. And yet, there were strong disagreements between them.
Where was God in the midst of this? Why didn’t He intervene? Couldn’t He have made His will very plain? Couldn’t He have just given them the exact same ideas and desires? Couldn’t God have done something?
Yes, to all of the above. Yes, He could have done any number of things and yet He didn’t. He allowed the disagreements. He allowed the struggle, the unknown who was right/who was wrong.
God is not like us, and He definitely does not do things like we would.
So, what does all this have to do with today?
Well, let me ask you a question –
Why are people rioting and what should be done about it?
Or what about this one –
Should people be forced to wear masks or is it ok not to wear them?
Then there’s this one –
Should people be getting haircuts if the government says not to open hair salons?
Should the body of Christ continue to meet even if the government says no?
All of these questions can bring out some fierce debating on social media. And truthfully, there are godly people on different sides for every single one of these issues.
Men and women who have walked with the Lord for decades will give you two different answers to each question. People who are praying, seeking God’s face, listening for that still quiet voice…
And yet they appear to hear two different things.
I don’t have a complete answer for you. Maybe partly because people are human beings. We are all imperfect, biased, seeing through a glass darkly, hearing through a different lens. None of us has all the answers, and none of us knows it all. Therefore, we’re going to disagree. A lot. And for some reason, God’s ok with that.
Maybe because some areas really are gray. Yes, I do believe there are areas of black and white. I do believe there are right and wrong answers to many questions. What happened to George Floyd was wrong, no gray area here. And I believe as an American it’s appropriate to protest when we disagree and desire justice. But that doesn’t mean rioting and looting are acceptable forms of protest.
I don’t believe that’s a gray zone either, to be honest. But I do know there are believers out there who think differently.
And honestly, I am thankful God uses even our disagreements. I remember one teacher talking about how because Paul and Barnabas split up, the gospel was able to go twice as many places in the same amount of time. God used their sharp disagreement even if it may not have been His first choice for their friendship.
Can God use the disagreements flooding the Church today?
I think so.
If only to show the world
– How to agree to disagree
– How to love someone you think is wrong
– Even when believers disagree we can still be united
– Jesus is more important than our opinions
So what do you say? We may not agree over everything I’ve written and said, can we still together proclaim the good news of Jesus, the Gospel of God that this world desperately needs to hear? Now more than ever.
Can we still be friends?