Smoke screens often occur in human relationships. Those who serve in ministry see them all the time. Over the years I have observed people get mad about an issue, within the church setting, but when you pursue the reason for their anger you discover a smoke screen. They are not honest about the real issue. In fact, sometimes people may not know why they are angry. In these situations, it takes a lot of digging to get at the source.
In Acts 15, we find a smoke screen, of sorts. John Mark had turned his back on Paul and Barnabas on a prior missionary journey (vs. 38). The Bible does not expose the reason for John Mark’s behavior. We are left to speculate (or) we can label it as a smoke screen. I am not accusing John Mark of deception. However, for all intents and purposes his behavior throws up a smoke screen to the Bible reader. Regardless, we can draw principles from this episode with John Mark to help us face “smoke screens.”
The first principle is to be patient. Barnabas was patient with John Mark and went the second mile to help him overcome his prior failure, regardless of the cause.
If we are going to help people move from behind their smoke screens, we must be patient. Some people are like Paul and want to move on without John Mark. Patience, such as displayed by Baranabas will pay dividends.
The second principle is to not judge. We are left wondering about the cause of John Mark’s disappearance. We can only speculate - was he homesick, fearful or sick. Didn’t he like missionary life, or was there some other reason. It is not our place to judge others. That is God’s business.
The third principle is to avoid assumptions. We often assume the worst about others, even though we do not know the full story. Assumptions are usually wrong, so we are better to avoid them.
The fourth principle is to not accept a person’s first excuse or response. This requires patience, love, and a non-judgmental attitude. Barnabas knew the real story about John Mark. He helped John Mark move beyond and overcome the roots of his failed behavior.
Helping people uncover smoke screens is frustrating work. It might take days or weeks to get at the truth of a person’s behavior. From the world’s viewpoint, we do not owe them a thing. From Heaven’s viewpoint, we might be helping to salvage a brother/sister, such as John Mark. We are in the salvage business!