Vol. 4, No. 9
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In 1 Peter 4:8, we read, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." The word "charity" as used in the KJV is the translation of the Greek word AGAPE, love. This passage, then, is urging brethren to love each other and indeed to be "fervent" in that love. Peter also tells us that this love "shall cover a multitude of sins." How does love cover sins? The meaning of the word "cover" as used in the passage does not mean "whitewash" or "overlook." This passage is not teaching that brethren should ignore the sins that their brothers and sisters commit and to let them pass off without any effort to correct one another when sin is committed.
Rebuking a brother for his sins is not the same as disowning him. The way in which we should seek to correct is for the purpose of restoring the erring brother (Galatians 6:1), not to seek to dismiss him from our company or to merely expose his sin. We need to realize that the steps that are taken to bring about correction might sometimes have to be severe, but even in this we should never forget that we are to confirm our love toward him (2 Corinthians 2:8).
There is no one who could love us more than our heavenly Father loves us. However, one sure sign of that love is his chastening of his own (Hebrews 12:6). The apostle Paul had had to write very severely to the brethren in the church at Corinth, but he did it out of the anguish of his heart that they might know the abundant love that he had for them (2 Corinthians 2:4). When we read the Old Testament Scriptures, we see that may times the punishment which God sent upon the children of Israel for their sins was very severe. On occasion, he spoke of Israel and Judah as being adulterous wives and brought down on them severe punishment, yet he confirmed his love toward them over and over again. One place where this is clearly seen is in Hosea the prophet. (One would do well to read that short book).
The goodness and severity of God were brought to bear upon man in bringing about mankind's redemption. Redemption is not simply the forgiveness of sins but it also involves the cleansing from sins. The love of God reforms men's lives as well as remitting their sins. These two effects go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. It is in this manner that the love of God covers sins through and by the blood of his Son, Jesus the Christ.
The mutual help that we can give one to another in overcoming the practice of sin in our lives together with the marvelous and immeasurable grace of God is the means whereby "charity (love) covers a multitude of sins." We are to "bear one another's burdens" in fulfilling the law of Christ.
Brethren, let us truly love one another and with that love truly "cover" one another's sins that we might be blessed by God and be a blessing to each other.