Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them…
…36 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.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 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. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.
Chapter 15 is bracketed by these two ‘sharp’ disputes that stop us from thinking all was wonderful and perfect with the Early Church. It wasn’t. Just as today, they had their differences and disagreements. The sign of a healthy community is not that this never happens, but how it works through its tensions. The rest of this chapter covers their response to the initial debate. Of course, the good news is that God doesn’t wait for us to be perfect before he either relates to us or uses us, and despite the bust up between Paul and Barnabas, their missionary efforts led to the good news of Jesus being taken to most of the known world at the time.
Heavenly Father, help us to be gracious towards each other, especially in disagreement. If you don’t wait for us to be perfect before accepting us, neither should we!