The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Peter is instructing a specific group of people, the elect exiles. These are the loyal followers of Jesus who have been barred from their native lands because of their faith. They have paid dearly for their faithful conviction in following Jesus and many of them will pay with their lives in the not too distant future from the time of Peters writing. They have been dispersed, or better yet chased or driven, into places like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. At that time where seeking to make a new life for themselves and families the best they were able as impoverished sojourners and refugees. Yet, Peters instruction is simple and profound. More than anything else they could or should be doing as the church they were to continue to love each other with intentionality. The same is true for our context today. Each believer is to love others with a sincerity and steely conviction with all seriousness. We are not to be slack in our love for one another for it is part of our witness. (John 13:34-35) Our command to love is not something we are to take lightly. Loving one another is not an afterthought it must be the first thought in our words and deeds. Peter then makes the point that this active sincere whole person love will cover a multitude of sins. So, what does that mean? Do we simply let sin abound among us because we “love” each other? Not at all. Instead we are to be walking together in relational communities in the newness of life together. (See Romans 6:1-4)
Regarding love that actually covers multitudes of sin, I would like to offer a familiar analogy for us to consider to help us understand the Apostles’ intent. It would be my hope and is my prayer, that if any one of us as followers of Jesus, see someone in distress that we would come to their aid. If they are hungry, we would give them food. If they are naked, we would give them clothes. If they are injured, we would bind their wounds (James 2:15-17; Luke 10:25-37). In other words, we would give them something to cover their shame, right? At least I would hope so. We would not seek to call attention to their hurt and pain but would seek to help cover them in it. This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself and to let that love cover a multitude of sins. Now we do not seek to ignore the sin but rather come alongside and help our brothers or sisters by giving loving assistants. This is that they may deal with their sin without us shouting it from the rooftops for all to hear. Would you want others to tell the world of your shortcomings? No? Me neither. But I would welcome loving help from those close to me and sincerely desire the best for my life and walk with God. How about you?