“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18).
“If possible. . .” Sometimes, even when we try, reconciliation does not seem possible. Sometimes the other person will not cooperate, will not reconcile, will not forgive. Sometimes we experience what Jeremiah prophesied: “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace” (Jer 6:14).
Sometimes the peace is only partial or only on the surface. But that is OK; it is a start. The Bible does not sugarcoat things. We see real conflicts between good godly people:
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return and visit the brothers and sisters in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul was of the opinion that they should not take along with them this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. Now it turned into such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas, and left after being entrusted by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41).
Two men of God had such a sharp disagreement that they had to part company. It doesn’t look good. Which one was right? Which was wrong? Were they both right and both wrong? Was Paul wrong for refusing to accept Mark as a ministry partner? Was Barnabas wrong for not acceding to Paul? Barnabas had been the Senior Mentor, the Senior Apostle. Why wouldn’t Paul accept the counsel of his mentor of many years, a veteran in the ministry?
They both had good points. Someone who had deserted and hindered the mission before could fail again. Trust had not been rebuilt between Mark and Paul. Paul might have brought to mind the words of Proverbs: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint” (Prov 25:19).
Yet Mark was family to Barnabas. He couldn’t give up on him that easily. Barnabas, whose name means encourager, understood grace and the transforming power of Jesus Christ to give a second chance. Barnabas might have argued back with Jesus’ words to repeatedly forgive those who have sinned against us and exercise the grace of God.
So reconciling was not possible at that time and they went their own ways in ministry rather than working together. It seems from the text that Barnabas left without a blessing, like Paul received, “being entrusted by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.”
Yet the Lord blessed both ministries, and eventually they reconciled although we don’t know the story. We find Paul speaking well of Barnabas to the Corinthians a few years later (1 Cor 9:6). More than a decade later, Paul speaks well of Mark. We don’t know the process of healing, but It happened. It was real. Writing to Philemon, Paul calls Mark “my fellow worker” (v 24). He exhorted the Colossian church, “if he comes to you, welcome him” (Col 4:10). He tells Timothy, ‘Take along Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Tim 4:11). Perhaps it took years, but they were reconciled and did ministry together once again.
There was a time in recent years before my father passed away that we were alienated. Someone had told him some false tales about me, and it caused my father to lose trust in me, and he wanted me out of his life—to no longer be his power of attorney. But I continued to love him and care for him. Someone else he did trust shared with him that the stories were not true, and I regained his trust again and he entrusted me to be his power of attorney once again.
It is certainly possible that reconciliation may never happen in your situation. But if you do your part to extend an olive branch of peace, who knows what God might do? It may take years, but wait on God to work. Peace and good will begins with our attitude and care–forgiving fully and unconditionally.