“And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;”
Disagreements are a part of life, but contention is the result when they are not appropriately handled. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on how they should deal with taking John Mark with, and their disagreement turned into contention. The word “contention” means a heated disagreement. In other words, they became so passionate about their position that their contention grew to the point that it became sharp contention. The word “sharp” is a word that is used to talk about piercing another. In other words, their contention became a weapon they used against each other. There is nothing wrong with standing for truth, but fighting over personal preference often turns into contention.
Let me point out to you that good people will have disagreements. Paul and Barnabas were both good men, but just because they were good men didn’t mean that they would agree on everything. It doesn’t matter how good of a Christian you might be; you will have disagreements with people. Disagreement over preference is not a sin as long as we don’t use it as a weapon to hurt another believer in Christ.
Do you realize that both people in a disagreement could be right? Both Paul and Barnabas were right about John Mark. Paul was right because John Mark wasn’t dependable. Barnabas was right because he believed in restoring John Mark by giving him another chance. It is normally the goal of an individual that determines why they are so adamant about their position. Just as much as both can be right, both sides can also be wrong in how they deal with it. You can be right about your position, but you could be wrong in your disposition in discussing it. Motives DO matter. Tone DOES matter. How do we deal properly with disagreements so that they don’t turn into sharp contention?
First, don’t make the handling of situations about you. You are not the issue in any situation; truth is the determination of right and wrong. Don’t attempt to turn your preference into scriptural positions.
Second, ask yourself if your position is right. You have to be willing to admit that you are wrong to make sure that you are right. If you are willing to be wrong, you can take the blinders off to see your position clearer.
Third, ask yourself if your attitude is right towards the other person. Just because you are right doesn’t make your attitude right. Don’t allow yourself to have a wrong attitude towards the person with whom you disagree.
Fourth, ask yourself if God would be pleased with your handling of the matter. Would God agree with what you said about the other person? Would God agree with your attitude in the situation? Your disposition and the words that you say to defend your position must be as right as your position on the matter.
Always remember that innocent bystanders are watching you. Don’t destroy the bystanders just to prove that you were right. People who love you will often take your position to another level, which can turn it into an unneeded war. Don’t allow your preferential disagreements with others to leak out and destroy the attitude and spirit of those with whom you have influence over.