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A Lesson in Forgiveness

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Words of Faith 12-6-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Colossians 4

     [10] My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)


      It may have been shocking to the readers in Colosse to see these names together.  They represented two very different histories.  John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, is seated here next to Aristarchus, who was so extremely loyal to Paul.  But as deeply blessed as Paul was by the loyalty of Aristarchus, there was a time when he had been just as angry toward John Mark. It was because John Mark had deserted him partway through a mission.

     You may remember from the book of Acts that Paul and Barnabas took young John Mark with them on their first journey from Antioch to Cyprus and then on to Pamphylia.  It was there that Mark abruptly left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). We don’t know why this happened, but some suggest he may have been homesick or simply not up to the rigors of missionary travel.  Paul had no sympathy and viewed this as desertion.

      Later, when Paul and Barnabas planned another journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along. Paul strongly disagreed.  He did not think it wise to take him because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.

      Wow.  This was a huge event that broke apart the partnership of Paul and Barnabas.  Barnabas took John Mark and sailed for Cyprus while Paul partnered with Silas.  We know that John Mark eventually became a companion to Peter.  Later he would write down the preaching and recollection of Peter into the Gospel we called Mark. 

       Now we can look back and see that God was at work and brought two missionary teams out of this conflict. That was good.  We can also see that the ministry of Barnabas to encourage John Mark resulted in the writing of the Gospel of Mark, a rather important part of God’s Word. But there is another important part of the story in these simple lines.

       Mark’s presence with Paul some fourteen years after such a sharp fracture makes a powerful statement about forgiveness and reconciliation.  Apparently, Paul and John Mark worked out the differences they had even to the point that John Mark was with Paul in Rome to aid and assist him.  Paul was a fiercely tenacious and stubborn leader, yet, he was able to reconcile with John Mark over time and forgive the perceived offense. John Mark was also able to see that even the giant Paul had to grow in some areas.  He forgave the unforgiving spirit that had been expressed toward him.

        Paul even went so far as to clarify: You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.  Paul wanted to be sure that any rumors or impressions that might have excluded John Mark were put to rest.  Things were clearly reconciled between them, and there was no grudge to bear.

        Apparently, Paul didn’t have time to harbor grudges or mull over disagreements.  As he wrote to the Philippians: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (3:13-15).

         The enormous truth here is that the Gospel is always bigger than any offense or perceived offense.  We must not hold a past failure against a person who has grown and repented.  Christ has forgiven us for so much—all of us—therefore, we must forgive and welcome our brothers and sisters back into our hearts and lives.

        Sometimes I talk to people who struggle with these same issues and say—I can never fellowship with that person ever again.  I can never see myself working with that person. God may forgive that person, but I cannot.  Paul sent a quiet but enormous message in this greeting: “God is bigger than the argument you had.  God is bigger than the issues that seemed so overwhelming at one time.  God is bigger than the sense of betrayal and abandonment you once felt.  God is bigger than all of that.  Get over it and get on with it. I did.”


      Father God, help me to put the pain and frustration of the past into the past.  Help me to forget what lies behind and strain toward what is ahead, that I might press on toward the goal and win the prize for which You have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Show me the people I need to forgive.  Show me the burdens I need to forbear.  Give me grace equal to the task.  In Jesus' Name.


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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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