Monday, August 14, 2017

Paul Novel 5.2: A Second Journey

from last week
So the churches of Antioch awkwardly resumed eating together--that is, of the ones that had eaten together before. There was at least that one house church that refused any association with the Gentiles at all. They disagreed with James' decision and grumbled when they were together. At least they knew that James preferred Gentiles to be circumcised.

Paul thought more and more about another missionary journey. He was a planter, a starter, an innovator. The churches of Antioch were on course.

Although the incident had been painful, it had made Menander and the Gentile believers stronger in their faith. Paul had shown them that the Jerusalem leaders were not always right. They also had the Holy Spirit. They could also search the Scriptures.

Barnabas could sense Paul's restlessness and finally asked him. "Shall we go back to Cyprus? We can see how the synagogues that believed there are doing in the faith."

Cyprus would not have been Paul's first pick. They had been mostly Jewish converts, and that was Barnabas' comfort zone. He believed that the churches of Galatia were in much greater need of follow-up, since those assemblies were mostly Gentile.

But he agreed. Barnabas agreed that, as they did the previous time, they would travel north to Galatia after Cyprus. Paul did not need much time to prepare. He was ready. All they really needed was an assistant to help them with their things.

"John Mark is on his way north even as we speak," Barnabas finally said, knowing that Paul would not be tickled with the idea. Barnabas had sent word to him when Peter had returned to Jerusalem.

"Not a chance," Paul said. "That boy is a quitter and a backstabber. I will not find myself having to lug our supplies myself across the mountains of Pisidia again."

Quite an argument ensued. It wasn't just about Mark being a quitter. Paul knew that Mark had just as many issues with him as he had with Mark. Mark had not liked the way he tended to dominate the mission. And Paul could see his smug face, especially now that Paul had lost the argument at Antioch over purity. Paul could see Mark being a hindrance in his mission to the Gentiles, which he now saw clearly was his primary calling.

Meanwhile Barnabas insisted that Paul needed to give Mark a second chance. How would he ever grow if he did not get a chance to try again? Did not Jesus himself teach that we needed to forgive those who wronged us seventy times seven?

"Oh I'll forgive him," Paul said. "But I still need someone to carry my things in Pisidia. And the Gentiles do not need any ambiguity on the nature of the gospel."

After two or three days of this back and forth, it was clear that neither of them was going to budge. Barnabas was unusually insistent, and Paul was his usual self. It was Barnabas who finally said, "Perhaps we should go our separate ways in peace. And who knows," he said, "we might just cover twice as much territory."

It was true. Later when Paul looked back, he would agree that their split was the best thing that could have happened.

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