Later in your life you will probably reflect on your military assignments and realize they were less about place and more about people. BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) might shut down an installation where you had fond memories of living in historic government quarters. You might take a personal trip to Europe only to have trouble finding the fenced compound on which you lived because it has been converted to a local neighborhood with new apartment buildings and businesses. But bulldozers cannot take from you the memories and relationships with people you met there.
Not all our memories of people are fond. In fact, some initial encounters can make you wish there were such a thing as a human bulldozer to move them out of the way. Paul’s response to John Mark likely fell into this category as John abruptly left the team at Perga. The Scripture passage does not state why John Mark left, but Paul did not find his reason to be acceptable. In fact, Paul had such strong negative feelings about him that he refused to allow John Mark to travel with him on the next missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but you can almost hear Paul responding with an insistent tone, “Remember Perga?”
When moving to a new location, getting everything set up takes work. Sometimes my husband has to move the couch to all four walls of the living room before I decide which location is best. Energy and effort always go into getting my children settled in the right classes and groups. Likewise, most new friendships do not come easy. At first encounter, you may not foresee a close friendship with a new acquaintance. The possibility exists that a first encounter may even be negative to the point that you do not want that person around, just like Paul felt about John Mark.
But don’t be too quick to permanently write someone off your potential friend list. If you stay in the military long enough, there is a chance you will run across them again. People can change. You and I can change. Relationships can change.
In fact, if you do further investigation into the relationship—maybe non-relationship would be a better description—between Paul and John Mark, you will find an interesting twist. Near the end of Paul’s life, while confined to prison in Rome awaiting a likely death sentence, he sent for John Mark. Considering Paul’s circumstances, why would he call for John Mark? Obviously, their relationship had changed over the years, and for the better. In asking for John Mark, Paul told Timothy, “He is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Who knows whom you will meet during your next assignment? Who knows with whom you will easily hit it off and with whom you won’t? Who knows who will end up being a friend for life?