Parting ways is hard, especially when we’re saying farewell to someone we love, but it is not always bad. The Bible puts the “good” in “goodbye.”
In Acts 15 two of the greatest missionaries to have ever worked together, Paul and Barnabas, fall into a “sharp disagreement” over the wisdom of taking John Mark on their second missionary journey. Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia while they were on their first journey. Now Barnabas, who is Mark’s cousin, wants to give him a second chance. Paul thinks it’s too risky. The disagreement is so severe that the men part ways. Paul takes Silas and they head west, eventually making it into Europe. And Barnabas takes Mark to Cyprus.
We could dwell on how disappointing the breakup was, but look at the good that came out of it. Paul and Silas ended up covering over 2,000 miles and planting several churches. Meanwhile Barnabas and Mark evangelized Cyprus. Not only that, but the encouragement Barnabas gave Mark no doubt led to the young man’s development into a great Christian leader. He went on to write the second inspired gospel account. Tradition has it that he evangelized North Africa, where a major center of Christianity later formed in Alexandria. And even Paul at the end of his life spoke of Mark’s usefulness (2 Tim. 4:11). But what would have happened if Barnabas had acquiesced to Paul’s demands and the two had stayed together?
Sometimes, like in the case of Paul and Barnabas, relationships end when neither party wants them to. But in other cases, a wise Christian will end a relationship because it threatens to lead him down the wrong path. Remember the words of 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” As Christians, we need to be choosy with our friendships. Just because a person is attractive or cool or smart, that doesn’t make him the best influence in your life. Look for friends who will help you get to heaven. Godliness is the number one characteristic to look for when forming a relationship. If godliness is not there, and there’s no hope of bringing the other person to Christ, it might be time to part ways.
Separation is not always a bad thing. We can find advantages sometimes to parting ways. But there is one separation that is never good—separation from God. Isaiah says it is sin that separates us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). When we part ways from him, the outcome is always terrible.
The good news is that Jesus endured a terrible separation on the cross so that we might have the hope of redemption. When he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) he had momentarily parted ways with his Father. This painful separation was necessary so that he could bear our sins and die the death that we deserve.
He parted ways with the Father so that we could be reconciled. Above all things, a relationship with God is most important. Are you with him, or have your sins driven you away from his presence?