Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Don't Believe in Second Chances

John Mark: A Ministry Not Wasted

To my observation those who don’t believe in second chances fall into three groups: (1) those who have never needed one, (2) those who have needed and received one, but who have forgot, (3) those who  say “there but for the grace of God go I” in the spirit of “God I thank thee.”

The case of John Mark can provide us with a measure of insight into how we should deal with “mess-ups.”  Luke tells us that the disciples in Jerusalem held meetings in John Mark’s  mother’s house and that, when Paul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, accompanied them. When the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on what we now call the First Missionary Journey, John Mark went along as an assistant. However, not long into the mission, John Mark left and returned to Jerusalem.

Something happened. We do not know what, but Paul considered it blameworthy and disqualifying for further service at least at that time. After the meeting of the Jerusalem Council, as Paul Barnabas made plans for their Second Missionary Journey, Barnabas wanted to include Mark on their team. Paul would have none of it. The disagreement was so sharp Paul and Barnabas could no longer work together. It is the first recorded breakup of a pastoral team.

The rest about Paul we know. He went on to become the greatest missionary and theologian in the history of the church. But what of Barnabas? He took John Mark to Cyprus and pretty much faded into obscurity. Or so we might think.

Actually it appears that part of the purpose of God for Barnabas was that, true to his name, a Son of Encouragement, his ministry would be the reclamation and restoration of a life. That life, John Mark’s, would have a powerful impact on the life of the church for so long as this age continues. Paul gave us great letters, but he gave us no Gospel. John Mark did. Peter regarded him as “my son.” The early tradition is that Mark’s Gospel provides is with the life of Jesus as preached by Peter.

Even Paul came to see Mark in a different light. He was with Paul during the Apostle’s first Roman imprisonment (Philemon 24). Paul sent instruction to the Colossians concerning a visit Mark would make to them (Colossians 4: 10).  In his last letter he told Timothy to “get Mark and bring him along with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Perhaps one of the lessons is that we need Pauls who lead the army into battle. And, we need Barnabases who care for the wounded and shell shocked and get them back into the war.

I, for one, am glad that John Mark fell into the hands of Barnabas and not a presbytery committee.

I don’t believe in second chances. I’m a literalist. I believe in at least 490 (Matthew 18: 21-22; Luke 17: 1-4), as our Lord taught Peter who would need more than one.

1 comment:

Traylor Lovvorn said...

A hearty, "Amen and amen!" brother! While I absolutely love the work and ministry of People of the Second Chance, I have long been on record as not liking the name. I for one am a ragamuffin who has needed much more than a second chance.

Thank you for being yet another voice that says to believers that it is ok to not be ok.