When I am confronted or questioned or criticized by a brother or sister in Christ, what is my first response?
If I am honest, my first response is usually along the lines of defense. I proclaim my innocence or my justification for whatever it is that we are discussing. I lay out my arguments, throw in some Scripture when I can, and do my best to defend my position. And normally this tactic works fairly well for me because I always feel as though I am right, or at least I feel like I won the argument (just ask my wife).
Win or lose, truth is, I have probably accomplished very little because I did not begin with love. As I have been working through 1 Corinthians, I have seen Paul’s call to love over and over again. Thing is, it does not always look like what I expect. Love means laboring to end division (ch.1). Love means focusing on the gospel (ch. 2). Love means humbly recognizing my part and never boasting in men (ch. 3-4). Love means taking action against unrepentant sin (ch. 5). Love means suffering wrong and being defrauded (ch. 6). Love means committment and faithfulness (ch. 7). And love means caring more about my brother in Christ than I care about my rights (ch. 8).
The world has so poorly defined love that I am often hesitant to even use the word, but Paul continues to point me back to its importance when it comes to the local church. And how does he define it? The sacrifice of Christ on the cross for my sins. By fixing my gaze on the gospel, on the love of God displayed through the giving of His Son, I can defeat division, boast in the cross, walk through suffering, and lay down my rights for my friends. Through His strength and His grace, I can love the church as Christ has loved His Bride.
May love, true sacrificial love, always be my first response.