Chris W. Dial on Acts 13-15
In Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were praying with Lucius of Cyrene, Simeon, and Manaen, who was a member of Herod the tetrarch's court. The Holy Spirit sent Paul (Saul) and Barnabas to Salamis in Cyprus.
John Mark met them there and went with them on their first missionary journey. They went throughout Cyprus, teaching. But when they arrived in Paphos, that is when trouble began, in the form of a man by the name of Bar-Jesus. He was a Jewish false prophet who who served a proconsul, Sergius Paulus. He asked Paul and Barnabas to come see him, and teach him the Word of God. But Bar-Jesus, who was also known as Elymas, opposed them. The Holy spirit filled Paul, and told him that because of wwhat he was doing waas wrong, that Bar-Jesus (Elymus) would be blind for a time, and immediately he was. Sergius Paulis was amazed at what he saw, and believed in God's word.
The Holy Spirit then sent them to Perga in Pamphia. They stood up in the synagogue,and began teaching god's word. Through the Holy Spirit working in them, many people converted to Christianity, and followed Barnabas and Paul. The following sabbath day, they returned to the synagogue as they were asked to, and taught again. However, not everyone was enthused about their teaching. Because the synagogue was filled to capacity of people wanting hear them, there were some who let jealousy get the better of them. They began arguing with Paul about the what he was teaching. Despite that, Barnabas and Paul continued to teach, and even the Gentiles were converted who had been there.
But some men stirred up men and women to persecute Paul and Barnabas, and they drove them out of that area. Paul and Barnabas did what Jesus had told the seventy to do if that happened to them. They shook the dirt from the city off their sandals, and moved on. They traveled on to Iconium.
Trouble didn't leave them alone. The people who caused trouble for them in Perga, followed them to Iconium. A lot of people. A lot of Jews and Greeks were converted, but many Jews got some Gentiles riled up against them. Because of this, Iconium suddenly became a split city. Half of the city supported Paul and Barnabas. The other half, supported the Jews who were causing trouble. When Paul and Barnabas found out that some people were going to stone them, they fled to Lystra and Derbe in Lyconia. In Lystra, Paul was dragged out of the synagogue, and stoned. When they thought he was dead, they dragged him out of the city.
In Acts 7, as Saul he approved the stoning of Stephen. In Acts 14, he is the one who is being stoned. After, a few moments, the disciples went out to him. Paul got up, and returned to the city. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe. They went up to all the places they had taught, and set up elders and churches.
Then came some brothers who used to be Pharisees. They were telling the newly converted Gentiles, that they had to be circumcised to be truly saved. A council in Jerusalem was held to discuss the issue. Peter, Paul, and Barnabas stood up in the council, and told how the Way was for Gentiles also. Peter told him his vision. Paul and Barnabas told them of their guidance from the Holy Spirit to teach Gentiles. The Apostle James the Lesser, stood up and stated that the Gentiles will not be required to be circumcised. Instead, a letter will be sent to all congregations telling the Gentiles not to eat anything polluted by idols, food that has been strangled. Do not consume blood, and stay away from sexual immortality.
You would think this would end all the trouble for them, but nope. Paul and Barnabas were going to go back out on the road. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Paul didn't, because he had bailed out on them half way thought their first missionary journey. After a heated discussion, Barnabas took John Mark with him. Paul took Silas with him. Despite all they went through together, it was an arguement over a brother that split them up.
Like Paul and Barnabas, we get attacked by trouble in different ways. From people criticizing the church, from people inside the church and from outside the church, from our family and from our friends.
The Journey minister, Greg Taylor, and I offer these few steps for handling conflict.
Step 1: Pray
Pray. Pray to God, pray to Jesus, pray to the Holy Spirit. Because of trouble I have had in the past, with my own thoughts, with the thoughts of Christian brothers and sisters, acquaintances, and even business customers, I know prayer helps. I try to pray before I speak.
Praying before I speak has especially helped with family members and relatives. Things are going fine, and in less than thirty seconds, seemingly, everything goes wrong. Praying helps relieve the stress, and tension of whatever trouble you're going through.
Step 2: Listen
Listen to what others have to say. James 1:19 says, "Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."
Step 3: Courageous Conversations
Human relationships are not always easy and require hard work. So also knowing how you believe and practicing those beliefs is not easy either. Do your homework about what you believe and practice. Then carefully share with others what is important to you and how you connect this with scripture. Be courageous about your beliefs, but also be kind in expressing them. The Journey has what we call Courageous Conversations and small group Bible studies both in our gathering sites and in homes. We do not believe we simply hold individual beliefs but share communal values and must sit together, listen to the Holy Spirit in prayer and Bible study, listen to one another, and then together discern what we believe and practice.
Step 4: Access your “wise owl” and not your “attack dog”
We have fight, flight, or passive aggression embedded in us. We often access our attack dog of fight, avoid conflict by flight, or we passive aggressively mis-function with people by being present with them but being silent and not expressing our troubled emotions or thoughts about them. These are not healthy options to continue or repeat. In difficult situations, we really need to access a fourth option. We can access a part of us that handles conflict wisely. Emotional Intelligence experts call this our “wise owl” of logic and controlled emotions to handle a conflict well. You will likely get emotional with important issues and important people to you, because emotions and thoughts are connected. Take deep breathes and drink some water, and this will help you access your “wise owl” instead of your “attack dog.” The wise owl will direct us toward loving words and actions towards others rather than hurtful words and actions.
Chris W. Dial
Chris W. Dial was born in Miami, Oklahoma but grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible. He attends Journey Church of Christ and works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office in the Records Department.