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.)—Colossians 4:10 (NIV)
In Acts 13, we meet John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, Paul’s friend and partner in spreading the gospel. But our first impression of Mark isn’t a good one.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.—Acts 13:13 (NIV)
The Bible doesn’t say why Mark left, but we can infer from what follows that he didn’t have a good excuse. Was he freaked out by God’s judgment on Elymas, aka Bar-Jesus, the wicked magician who had opposed their missionary team in Cyprus? We can’t know, but seeing a man immediately blinded and enshrouded in mist and darkness would do the trick for many of us.
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul 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. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.—Acts 15:36-40 (NIV)
Our failures often have ripple effects in the lives of those around us. Mark’s failure led Paul to part ways with his friend and longtime advocate. But that’s not the end of the story. We can surmise from 1 Corinthians 9:6 that Paul and Barnabas were reconciled. But we can also see Paul not only forgave Mark but also came to value his contribution to furthering the gospel. Mark, in fact, became the author of one of the four gospels.
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.—2 Timothy 4:11
The Bible doesn’t give us the backstory, but it’s safe to assume Mark repented of his conduct on that fated missionary journey and worked to redeem himself in the eyes of fellow servants of Christ. We see another example of restoration in Paul’s ministry in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, in which Paul urges the church to forgive and restore a repentant man who had been guilty of sexual sin.
We all mess up. Be grateful our failures are not recorded in scripture for billions of people to read over thousands of years. When we mess up, the biblical model is this: We repent. We allow the Lord to use our experience to grow us. And those around us are to forgive us and restore fellowship with us.
Maybe you need to be restored or you know someone who is waiting to be restored. God is gracious, faithful, loving, merciful and just. Represent Him well as you, or someone around you, rebounds from failure.