Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 4
Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Reflection: Hitting the Mark of Reconciliation
By John Tillman
Mark is a key figure in the New Testament who served as Peter’s secretary (1 Peter 5.13) and according to Clement of Alexandria and Origen, wrote the gospel of Mark based on his records of Peter’s preaching and personal accounts. Mark was himself an eyewitness to parts of his gospel account, as the detail of the young man fleeing Gethsemane naked (Mark 14.51-52) fits the typical way authors of the time would mention themselves without using their name. (John referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is another example.)
But Mark and Paul had a spotty history. Mark was a relative of Barnabas, who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on one of their early trips. It did not go well.
We don’t know exactly what happened but in Acts 13, Luke states that Mark “left them” for Jerusalem. But in Acts 15, it is clear that, at least in Paul’s mind, Mark “deserted” them in Pamphylia (Acts 13.13; 15.38).
Whatever the nature of the desertion, Paul refused to take Mark on a future trip. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so strongly that they stopped working together. Not exactly a church split, but more akin to the dissolving of a church planting ministry organization. It is one of those moments that, if the New Testament was fiction, would be edited out.
But woven through the rest of the New Testament, we see God’s work of restoration and reconciliation in the relationship of Paul and Mark. When Paul writes Colossians in the early 60s, we see him give instructions that Mark, if he comes to the church, is to be welcomed. (Colossians 4.10) And here, in the final letter of his ministry, we see the words, “he is helpful to me…” The gospel can move those we would refuse to work with today toward being those who are helpful to us.
Time does no such thing as heal wounds. But the gospel has the power to resurrect dead relationships just as it has the power to resurrect our souls and our physical bodies. When we know Christ as Paul describes we should, the power of the gospel and the forgiveness of our own sins empowers us to pass on to others the forgiveness of Jesus.
Just as Paul sat in isolation in prison, extending redemption and reconciliation to those who had wronged him, may we, struggling in isolation, discover in the resources of Christ within us, the power to extend forgiveness to someone in our lives.
*As we have said before, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness can be one-sided and does not require restoration of the same relationship, especially in cases of abuse. God can help us forgive anyone of anything regardless of whether they are repentant or not. Reconciliation is beyond that—it requires something of both sides. True accountability, confession, repentance, and demonstration of change may be required before allowing someone back into one’s life. All things are possible with God, but we must also be cautious and wise, especially concerning the protection of ourselves and those for whom we are responsible.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about A Christian Response to Offense
Our culture is unable to bear offense and simultaneously unable to bear forgiveness.
Read more about Praying for Repentance
Defending correct doctrine is the task Paul is quite seriously commanding Timothy to prepare for. We need to prepare for it too.