Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. ESV 2 Timothy 4:11
Relationships change over time. I’ve noticed that certain people I was incredibly close to years ago, I rarely speak to now. Other people I’ve known casually for years are now becoming good friends. Today I reconnected with a seminary acquaintance. We chatted for an hour over coffee…probably more total time than we ever spent talking in several years of seminary together. A very few relationships have soured, but even some of those have been moderately restored over time. When I was younger, I struggled with the change in relationships, but as I age, I’m embracing them as a natural part of life in this world–a life that includes both sin and the sovereign plan of God.
Paul also watched relationships change. At one point John Mark accompanied him and Barnabas in ministry. For some reason, he bailed. We don’t know why, but his actions convinced Paul he wasn’t worth taking on the next mission trip. This led to a split between Paul and Barnabas (who really stood up for John Mark…and it should be noted had originally stood up for Paul). In my theological days, I used to question whether Paul or Barnabas was “right.” While I’m sure God will have something to say to each of them, I’m not sure discerning who was “right” and who was “wrong” is the point. The reality is that God used that parting of ways to stretch the gospel to multiple areas. God obviously continued to work in John Mark’s life, because at the end of Paul’s life, he specifically asked for Mark to visit, noting “he is useful for the ministry.” Had Paul softened in his stance? Had Mark matured? Perhaps a bit of both? Does it even matter? The reality is that God brought the two of them back together in ministry, perhaps stronger than ever.
How have relationships changed in your life over the years? Is God perhaps calling you to reconnect to an old friend? Did you just lose contact, or did you perhaps part ways less than amicably? Perhaps God has grown them, and perhaps God has grown you. While we need to stand on conviction, the gospel leads us to believe in radical change–in us and others. Be prepared to accept changes in your relationships as well.