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. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (NIV)
Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (NIV)
Two passages that are separated in time and subject matter and yet contain one fascinating and encouraging link: a man called Mark. In the first passage, this man Mark had so upset Paul on one of his mission journeys that Paul refused to be in his company. Mark had apparently let him down so badly that the relationship was impaired. In the second passage, which is literally the last recorded words of Paul, he is asking that this same man, Mark, be brought to him. Paul values him so highly.
Our lives are littered with damaged or broken relationships. Others have let us down: we have disappointed them. Friendships have faded. We come to be uncomfortable with certain people: there is something between us. And we wonder if it can ever be put right.
For those who belong to Jesus, the answer must always be “yes”. In God’s time, the misunderstandings, the betrayals, the wounds, can all be healed. Relationships are retrievable. It might take much patient work, and may involve us in some painful repentance. Who knows how long it took Paul and Mark to be reconciled and what it cost them along the way? But our God is the God of the second chance. He doesn’t want us to live in the dead ends of disappointment and betrayal. He invites us to realize that those who let us down are only human: just like us. He invites us to move from cynicism and self pity to an embracing of a new beginning, a second chance.
How good it would be if our last recorded words were to feature hints of damage undone; hurts healed; friendships restored. This doesn’t happen through human effort or sentimental dreaming. It happens when we surrender all our relationships into the hands of the God who offers to make all things new. With this God, the unhappy chapters of our relational lives need not be the entire story. There can be a happy ending.