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August 21, 2013

Text:  “Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.” Acts 15:37-38   “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry”  II Timothy 4:11b-12

Mark (John Mark) was a young man engaged by Paul and Barnabas to accompany them  on their first mission tour. He seems chiefly to have been engaged by Paul and Barnabas as a “minister” (“servant”) who handled the details of the trip (i.e. baggage, housing, food, etc.). He might also have engaged  in the evangelism.  But there were many hardships and persecutions.  Paul himself was stoned at Lystra. But when they came to Perga near the Mediterranean Mark left Barnabas and Paul and returned home.

After Paul and Barnabas ended the missionary effort and had spent some time at Antioch, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they retrace their steps and edify the converts they had made. There quickly arose a sharp contention among the two.  Paul opposed the suggestion of Barnabas that they take Mark with them again. Finally the flare-up caused Paul to choose Silas and they went to Syria and Cilicia while Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus. (cf Acts 15:36-41)

As to Mark’s reasons for abandoning the two evangelists we can not be dogmatic. Some attribute the bailing out to Mark’s youth; others cite the hardships and dangers he experienced. Nevertheless, this action put a blemish on Mark’s reputation.  Paul sees the event as evidence of Mark’s faithlessness and  unreliability. My guess would be that Paul and many others took this as a flaw in Mark’s character, an inclination of  weakness, a desertion of duty, a huge indiscretion. Mark’s name was “Mud”.

A ruined reputation is only a misstep away and some people have long memories. In our day image is everything. In the business world the name Bernie Madoff recalls a false investor and con-man.  In sports Pete Rose’s name indicates a gambler and one who flaunted baseball’s rules.  In the annals of war Benedict Arnold  is known as a capable general, but a traitor to the Continental Army. In politics Richard Nixon is recalled as a ruthless politician who was impeached from the US presidency.

As Paul Harvey used  to say, “Here is the Rest of the Story.”  Mark was one who repaired his image and became serviceable to the cause of Christ. Evidently he labored for the church until he had silenced all his detractors. A little less than 20 years after he had deserted Paul and Barnabas at Perga his greatest critic, Paul the apostle, sent an urgent message for Mark to come to him as he awaited execution. Look at what praise, etched in scripture, Paul paid Mark for whom he previously had disdain, “…he is very useful to me for ministry.”  Thank goodness for time and opportunity to redeem one’s self.

Mark’s image was repaired!

We all have some “skeletons in our closets”.  You and I have embarrassed ourselves, shamed our families, and caused the church to be slandered. I still rebuke myself for some of my misdeeds, both in youth and adulthood. I am in need of short memories of men and forgiveness from God. How do we stumbling  and culpable humans repair our reputations?

Here are some suggestions.

(1) Don’t procrastinate! Get started rebuilding now. Commit to staying with it.

(2) List your indiscretions. Then work on them one at a time. Repeat.

(3) Confess your sins to God and truly repent. Pray about this frequently.

(4) Ask God for his strength and cooperate with him by exercising yours.

(5) Replace your sinful behaviors with godly behaviors.

God and you can change your character and how others view you. Get busy!

One Comment
  1. Larry permalink

    Great advice rendered with Christian humility. Thank you.–ls

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