“ Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins”–1 Peter 4:8.
My Dear and Beloved Family in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I would suspect that when we think of the forgiveness of our sins and the subject of love, we are first mindful of the infinite love of God. This great love, so marvelously displayed upon the cross, is one that has fully achieved the forgiveness of our manifold sins and effected our reconciliation to the Father. And this is precisely what we should think of, first and foremost! In the simplest of terms, we have been saved from God’s wrath and the horrible consequences of our sins by His infinite love! Our multitudinous transgressions have been fully and forever covered by our Savior’s blood!
However, when the Apostle Peter penned the inspired words quoted above, he was not speaking directly of God’s love for us. Rather, he was addressing our love for one another–a love that flows to us from the Father, and from us out to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. And, as you can see, this is to be a love that is “ fervent” (NASB), one “ deeply” expressed (NIV), or “ unfailing” (RSV). It is this heavenly-borne “ love,” the very love of Christ that each of us have experienced, that we are to constantly extend to each other such that it “ covers a multitude of sins,” their sins against us.
We might say, then, that Christ’s reconciling and forgiving love for us should (and must) always govern our relationships with each other.
While the implications of these words of Holy Scripture are as profound as they are far-reaching, we are prompted by the Apostle to apply them in one specific way; within the context of daily life together. This seems clear enough as we consider verses 9-11. This being the case, Peter’s intent is to set forth a principle that is to guide and control our daily interactions with one another.
Throughout the course of life–from Sunday to Saturday, and then back around again–we will sin against one other in a host of ways. Many, if not most, of these offensives will be less than spectacular. A harsh or angry word, a broken promise, a neglected duty, impatience, frustration, a selfish act, and so on. This is, after all, what sinners do, even redeemed sinners who are in the process of being transformed into Christ’s image. As the brother of our Lord said, “ For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
What the Apostle Peter appears to be saying, then, is that as we live and serve with one another, the greater portion of our relational sins are simply to be covered by love. And this means that when we are the one sinned against, we are to patiently bear our brother’s (or sister’s) sin, immersing their guilt in the same mercy and love that we have received so freely from our Father.
To state this more practically, we might say that our love for each other makes it unnecessary for us to ‘make a federal case’ out of every little offense that we suffer. For sure, there are some relational sins of such far-reaching magnitude that we must address under the guidance of Scripture (Matt. 18:15-20). But the better part of our transgressions against one another can be quickly forgiven, forgotten, and made to disappear under that magnificent “ fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”
In other words, such love makes it unnecessary for me to stop and confront my brother or sister each and every time that I believe they have sinned against me. I can bear their sins in the power of Christ’s love. I can move on, allowing that transgression to float down the river of mercy, out of sight and out of mind. I can patiently bear their imperfections, blind-spots, and weaknesses because I love them in the way that my Savior keeps loving me, with infinite tenderness and long-suffering patience.
It is only if I truly love my brother or sister in this beautiful, God-gorifying way that I can resist the urge to retaliate, to speak a harsh word in reply, to extract that ‘pound of flesh,’ to ‘set them straight’, to ‘give them a piece of my mind,’ and so forth. It is only to the degree that I love them that I can refuse to “ keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people” (1 Corinthians 13:5, Phillips Translation).
Perhaps we could even say it this way: If I “ keep loving” my brothers and sisters in Christ “ earnestly,” then I am set free! Free from bitterness. Free from the need to be proven right or vindicated. Free from always having to have the last word. Free from the prison-house of frustration and disappointment. Free from that awful tyranny of self-importance. Free from the silly relational games that we play so often. And free to be used by my Father as a conduit of the mercy and love of Christ to those closest and dearest to me, my precious fellow-believers in the household of God.
On this new Tuesday, let’s ask the Spirit of God to fill our souls with our Father’s patient, forgiving, sin-covering love for each other. Let’s seek the freedom of extending forgiveness, even (and especially!) when the sins that we suffer at the hands of our loved-ones are unacknowledged by them.
The next time we are hurt or offended, let’s pursue the Spirit-empowered ability to let that sin go, floating away forever in the same way that our sins have been forgotten for all eternity by our Father. May we remember that every single one of our brother or sister’s sins, even those that hurt and deeply wound us, have been fully paid for by love. Let’s ask for a fresh filling of the love of Christ for the purpose of blessing each other with its glorious, life-giving fruit.
May our Father bless and encourage you most richly on this good day!
I love you so very, very much,