Love covers a multitude of sins by Dan Stephenson
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. - (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)
When I was a new believer, I found this verse confusing. I didn’t reject it, but I didn’t understand it either. Did the verse mean a cover-up was OK, that if we loved someone, we should just look the other way? That didn’t sound right. Or did the verse mean that if you show enough love, you get a pass on a few sins? No, that couldn’t be right either.
Later, I realized that Peter was quoting a proverb here, the same proverb James quoted in his letter (James 5:20). And that proverb seems to be Proverbs 10:12, which in the NKJV says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” This section of the book of Proverbs contrasts the behavior of good people and bad people—the righteous and the wicked. This proverb shows the two ways we can respond when someone wrongs us or lets us down, and explains the consequences of our response.
If someone hurts or disappoints me, or sins against me, I can hold it against them. I can bring it up again and again, using it as a weapon to stir up strife. This response prolongs the conflict, and keeps old wounds from healing.
On the other hand, if someone hurts or disappoints me, or sins against me, I can choose to respond with love. I can forgive and move on, demonstrating that I value the relationship more than I value my rights.
This more noble response gives us insight into God’s grace and forgiveness toward us. Even as believers, we sin, but he does not hold it against us, waving our failures in our face, never letting us forget. No. He forgives, and he continues to love us. We confess our sin (1 John 1:9), and we enjoy ongoing fellowship with him.
Sadly, there are times when the other person is unrepentant and merciless in their ongoing hurt. What is our obligation then? Remember that love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), and that revenge belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). Pray for that person (Luke 6:28). If, in order to be safe, you need to put some distance between you, by all means do that.
But in most of our relationships, we ought to recognize that I may say and do things to offend you. And you may say and do things that offend me. I hope it’s not on purpose. I hope we both learn to communicate better and to care more. And when we have been offended, we will respond in love, which covers a whole bunch of those little offenses.