Daily Reading for June 11 • St. Barnabas the Apostle
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40
Contention cannot be said to be evil, when each disputes for such objects (as here) and with just reason. I grant you, if the exasperation were in seeking his own, and contending for his own honor, this might well be (reproved): but if wishing, both the one and the other, to instruct and teach, the one took this way and the other that, what is there to find fault with? For in many things they acted upon their human judgment; for they were not stocks or stones. And observe how Paul impeaches (Mark), and gives the reason. For of his exceeding humility he reverenced Barnabas, as having been partner with him in so great works, and being with him: but still he did not so reverence him, as to overlook (what was necessary). . . .
The point to be considered is not that they differed in their opinions, but that they accommodated themselves the one to the other, (seeing) that thus it was a greater good their being parted. . . . What then? Did they withdraw in enmity? God forbid! In fact you see after this Barnabas receiving many encomiums from Paul in the Epistles. There was “sharp contention,” it says, not enmity nor quarrelling. The contention availed so far as to part them. “And Barnabas took Mark,” etc. And with reason: for what each supposed to be profitable, he did not forego thereafter, because of the fellowship with the other. Nay, it seems to me that the parting took place advisedly, and that they said one to another, “As I wish not, and thou wishest, therefore that we may not fight, let us distribute the places.” So that in fact they did this, altogether yielding each to the other: for Barnabas wished Paul’s plan to stand, therefore withdrew; on the other hand, Paul wished the other’s plan to stand, therefore he withdrew. Would to God we too made such separations, as to go forth for preaching.
From John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 34 on Acts 15:35; found at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf111.vi.xxxiv.html