(Note: Except where noted, all Scripture
references are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 updated edition.)
had washed out. Sure, he was just a
rookie; and he had started out with the usual dreams and high hopes. Everything had gone well for the first week
or so, and the future looked bright. After
all, he had joined up with two veterans who were conducting a missionary tour
of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
He couldn't have asked for better mentors. They had started out from Jerusalem, moved up
the coast to a town in western Syria, then crossed the Mediterranean to
Cyprus. They toured the island from east
to west until they came to a town called Paphos on the west coast. There they faced some serious opposition. And when the heat was applied, the rookie
buckled and ran.
Two years later, the same two
veterans planned a return trip covering the same itinerary. And there was the rookie raring to go with
them again. Only this time the veterans
argued over whether to take him. Barney
said yes. Paul said no. The disagreement became so sharp they
split. Paul took Silas and set out for
Cicilia. Barney took John Mark and
sailed back to Cyprus.
In Barnabas, we see fleshed out the
command of Jesus to "love one another, even as I have loved you."
(John 13.34) When, for instance, Paul
came to Jerusalem claiming to have become a Christian, the disciples refused to
believe him. No one trusted him. Only Barnabas reached out to him as a brother
and stood by him while the rest of the disciples stood their distance. Through the persistent support of Barnabas,
Paul came to be accepted by the other disciples. Now the love of Jesus in Barnabas did the
same for John Mark as well. We don't know what happened on the return
trip to Cyprus or where they went from there.
We know nothing of the manner in which Barnabas mentored John Mark. But we do know that he restored Paul's faith
in the lad, because when Paul wrote to Timothy from prison in Rome toward the
end of his ministry, he asked him to "Take Mark, and bring him with
thee: for he is profitable to me for the
ministry." (2 Timothy 4.11, KJV)
Early in his ministry, Paul seemed
intolerant of those who failed or those who stumbled and fell along the
way. He had to learn that Christians, too, are fallen people. He had to learn to show compassion for a brother
who failed and acceptance for those not so strong as he. He had to learn to love them as Christ loved
them. It was a hard lesson for this
stubborn old Pharisee turned Christian.
When he began to write letters to the churches, however, Paul not only
taught love for the brethren, he explained how to show it. For example, to the Romans, he wrote,
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." (Romans 12.10) To the Galatians, he wrote, "through
love serve one another." (Galatians 5.13)
And he prayed for the Thessalonians that the Lord would "cause
[them] to increase and abound in love for one another." (1 Thessalonians
3.12) And Paul increased in that love
himself, demonstrating it in his relationships with Timothy, Luke, Trophimus,
Acquila, Priscilla, many others, and, of course, John Mark.
Why was all this so important? Because Jesus told us that our love for
one another is the badge of the believer.
He said, "By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you
have love for one another." (John 13.35)
The operative word here is "My." There were many disciples in Jesus's world,
for there were many teachers. Who knows
what distinguished them from one another?
But Jesus said His disciples would be distinguished by their love
for one another. Not by their love for
the lost as important as that is, but their love for one another. "Christ's unique plan," says Dr.
Gene Getz, "was that non-Christians come to know of His love through
Christians in proper relationship with one another.... ...by loving one another
in the presence of non-Christians we can communicate God's love to
them." If we claim to be Christians
and are not concerned about other Christians --- their needs, their hurts,
their joys, their sorrows, then what do we communicate to the lost?
Real love, God's love, the kind of
love Jesus Himself had is just like that.
It is a love that always gives.
And gives sacrificially. After
all, isn't that what Jesus meant when He said to "love one another, even as I have loved you"?