As Christians, we are to love one another. Others will know we are Christians by the love that we have for one another (John 13:35). We share much in common with our fellow Christian as opposed to those in the world. We share a common heavenly Father, a common Savior, a common salvation, a common faith, a common hope and a common enemy, the devil. Through the teachings of Jesus and His apostles written in the Bible, we share common principles and standards for living. Peter tells us that we are to have fervent love for one another. 1 Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” The word fervent implies something very hot or glowing. Our love for one another should be earnest and deep. Since we share so much in common, it should be natural to have a fervent love for our fellow Christians.
But as Christians, we are not perfect. Sometimes we trespass against each other. Sometimes we sin. The apostle Peter tells us to have fervent love for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” No one can hide their sins from God; He sees all of our actions whether they are good or bad. Our love does not buy pardon from God for another’s sins. We each must receive forgiveness from God for our sins. But I want us to consider how our fervent love can have a positive influence when there is sin within the community of believers.
We know that God is not pleased with sin. When another Christian sins, we do not rejoice; instead, we may grieve. Since we love the sinner and hate the sin, we encourage repentance. We pray for the sinner. We admonish him. James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Our love will motivate us to seek to turn the sinner from the error of his way. Even if he does not immediately repent, we continue to pray and seek change. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). If we are successful, he will stop sinning and we will save a soul from death.
Love is a powerful force. Love for someone can motivate a person to change his life. God loves us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God loved us very much to send His only begotten Son to die for us. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We should want to be pleasing to God because of our love for Him. In the same way, when you demonstrate your love for the Christian sinner but hate the sin and grieve for him, he sees that. If the sinner loves you in return, he will be influenced to change because of his love for you.
When you love someone, you hardly notice their imperfections and small faults – you love them! When your fellow Christian trespasses against you, you forgive him. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The Corinthian brethren were taking each other to the civil courts because of conflicts between them. The apostle Paul admonished them in 1 Corinthians 6:7 “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?” Because you love your brother, you accept wrong and forgive him. James taught us in James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” You should not be quick to judge your brother – maybe you misunderstand and you don’t really know why he acted as he did. Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” So there can be multiple reasons to let go of what you perceive as trespasses from your brother. The reason you do so is that you love him.
When your fellow Christian sins, you do not spread it around. You do not gossip or be quick to tell others about him. Proverbs 11:13 “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” Proverbs 17:9 “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” After the flood, Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. Noah’s son Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told his brothers Shem and Japheth. These brothers walked backwards into the tent and covered the nakedness of their father (Genesis 9:18-27). Out of love for our brother, we should be like Shem and Japheth rather than Ham who was quick to tell others about his father’s nakedness.
We have the characteristics of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Many of these characteristics should describe how we treat a fellow Christian who sins. We should suffer long; we should not be provoked; we should not think evil; we should not rejoice in iniquity but rejoice in the truth; we should believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. My encouragement is to have fervent love for love will cover a multitude of sins.