Monday, September 13, 2010

The Wisdom of Friends

Acts 15:35-41
Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word of God. But they weren't alone. There were a number of teachers and preachers at that time in Antioch.
36 After a few days of this, Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's go back and visit all our friends in each of the towns where we preached the Word of God. Let's see how they're doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. 38 But Paul wouldn't have him; he wasn't about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. 39 Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; 40 Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, 41 went to Syria and Cilicia to build up muscle and sinew in those congregations. - The Message

Have you ever thought you knew what was best? Of course you have; we all have. It is human nature to think that what we know is, at least for a moment, is the best course of action. Sometimes while driving in a unfamiliar part of the country, I will forgo the directions that are given to me by my GPS, especially when I can see my destination. Sometimes, I am right, but not all the time. I have found myself on more than one occasion having to backtrack because the course I chose turned out to be the wrong one. though I could clearly see where I was wanting to arrive, the my self-improvised path was mired by roadblocks or one way streets, that went in the wrong direction. Yet, as stated earlier, sometimes my chosen path was the better one.

Of course, thinking we know best isn't just relegated to our navigational skills. It encompasses so much more. I cannot begin to think of the times, when I was much younger, friends warned me that the relationship that I was in was the wrong one. Love or infatuation was blind. I thought I knew best and found myself hurt and wounded later. The funny thing was that I often wondered why no one told me this would happen.

Often our pride and/or our heart gets in the way of reason and common sense. We will go against the grain of wisdom from family, friends, and colleagues, hoping for the chance to prove them wrong. Sometimes we prevail, but most often, we wind up wondering where we went wrong.

The scripture passage today tells of a similar account between two of the early church leaders. Paul and Barnabas had been tight in their mission of spreading the good news about Jesus. They were successful and wanted to ensure that their message was remaining entrenched in the hearts of those they spoke to earlier. But, as they made plans to return to the cities that had previously visited, they reached an impasse about who would accompany them. Barnabas chose someone who had deserted them earlier. He missed out on acquiring the basic first-hand knowledge that the early church required. Paul and Barnabas argued vehemently about this and decided to part company. Paul took with him and man whom had the blessing of the church leaders and his ministry is recorded as being exceedingly fruitful. Barnabas, while still trying to accomplish the same goal, followed his own ambition and went against the wisdom of his friends and colleagues. This is the last account recorded of Barnabas in this book.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. In my faith tradition, we are to temper our decisions based on scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. I believe that second part includes the wisdom imparted to us by our friends. Sometimes, our way is best, but we should always weigh others views and insights. Afterall, friends are gifts from God.


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