I am still considering a change of person, and thinking back on our spiritual wardrobe, we discussed the belt described as love: compacting all our relationship building virtues into us, so that we can be a blessing to others.  There in the Col 3:14 Paul says:

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

The Message calls love an “all-purpose garment” and that we are to “never be without it.” (Col 3:14 MSG).  It should be with us all the time, worn everyday as part of our person. It is the most important moral quality in the believer’s spiritual wardrobe.

Today, this idea of love, binding relationship skills together has also made me think of the phrase “love covers a multitude of sins.”  In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter echoes Paul…

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”

In other words, the one requirement to have a strong, determined love is forgiveness.

Before we go on, let’s put Peter’s words into historical context. Christian Courier tells us that approximately 64 years after Jesus’s death on the cross, the evil emperor Nero burned the city of Rome to the ground. No one exactly knows why, but with everything burned and destroyed including all aspects of culture and religion, not to mention lives, many Romans were left homeless and hopeless. They quickly realized their “gods” couldn’t save them.  Sensing an uprising, Nero convinced the Roman people that the Christians were to blame for the destruction.

Nero’s lies quickly spread far and wide across the empire, deepening the Romans’ hostility toward Christians and sending them into hiding. Nero hated Christians and persecuted believers: he had them thrown to dogs, nailed to crosses in his garden, and burned alive to serve as living torches in the night.

It was during this time that Peter wrote his first epistle.  His goal was to strengthen the Christians and offer hope.  He also wanted to teach them how to live victoriously despite the situation, and encourage them to forgive the Romans’ treatment of them because the Romans’ beliefs were based on lies and deception. 

Believers, despite circumstances, could still be obedient to Christ even in persecution, by allowing love to “cover a multitude of sins.”

This love, means to forgive and put others first and seek their spiritual good even if they aren’t kind or gracious, sometimes even hostile to us. You may have had an experience where you’ve found it hard to seek the highest good for someone who hates you. This is the love Peter is talking about.  In a world where people are easily offended, this is a love that covers a multitude of offences.

 Jesus showed us this kind of love in Luke 23:34 when He prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He also instructed us to love our enemies and pray for them (Luke 6:27-31, 35):

 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you…  But love your enemies, do good to them…” 

We have to cover the sins of others that offend us, anger us, rile us, with a grace-giving love that is always ready to forgive no matter the circumstances.   

It means:

  • we have to bear with one another’s sins (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13), even when we feel betrayed and offended.  This does not mean ignoring the seriousness of sin, but bearing with one another has we learn to deal with sin in our lives.  An offering of grace to others just as God is gracious to us in our struggles against sin.
  • we need to be open and friendly, inviting people into our circle AND not grumble about having to do it (1 Peter 4:9-10)
  • we need to use our gifts and talents to minister to them (Rom 12:6-8), remembering that our gifts are for loving service to others and to deepen our love, making our forgiveness more effective.
  • We are to be sincere in our love, devoted to one another (Rom 12:9-10)
  • We are to actively bless those who persecute us (Rom 12:14)
  • Maintain peace with everyone (Rom 12:18)
  • Not seek revenge, which means not repaying evil with evil (Rom 12:17)
  • We are to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21)

At the end of the day, we’ll discover it’s us who benefit the most by letting our love cover a multitude of sin.  The reality is that as believers we can expect persecution (2 Tim 3:12  “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”)

  • One can expect to be persecuted by your own people,
  • Be teased, mocked, ridiculed for being a Christian
  • Be overlooked in the world, in the workplace, in church, amongst friends and even in your own family
  • If you have anything good or do anything good, you can expect opposition from others.

But Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:10). 

It is to our benefit to let “love cover a multitude of sins,” because it identifies us with the Kingdom of heaven.

Thank you for showing me this Lord, for reminding me that being characterized by love as a believer includes loving when it is hard to forgive.  Letting love cover a multitude of sins is not approving of the sin, or enabling the sin, but not allowing the sin to cause me to do evil.  Love allows me to still be good to them, serve them, love them for how You see them.  It gives me a choice to actively bless their lives.  In this way, love overcomes that which the enemy meant for evil.  Help me to love the people around me like this Lord.

Previous: Bind It Together with Love

This is the last in this bible study series.