1 Peter 4: 7-14
May 16, 2021
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Peter speaks of Christians loving one another when He says “Love covers a multitude of sins.” This is how Christians are to live. We are to be serious and watchful in our prayers, have fervent love for one another, looking past each other’s faults and weaknesses and not holding grudges, with hospitality, and each using his gifts for the good of others.
St. Peter is not saying that human love covers our sins in God’s eyes or that it overcomes death. Human love is not an atoning sacrifice. It does not reconcile us to God apart from Christ the mediator. No matter how deep and pure or even perfect human love might be it can only ever be a righteousness of the law and not of the gospel. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s love in Christ for man, can truly promise and deliver reconciliation and righteousness. It does so when we believe that on account of Christ the Father is gracious to us. He gives to us the merits of Christ and counts them as our own. That is the foundation of our faith.
Thus, just a bit before Peter makes the statement “love covers a multitude of sins” he urges us to come to Christ so that we might be built upon Christ. And he adds, “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Our love for one another frees neither the lover nor anyone whom he loves from shame when God judges and accuses. Instead faith in Christ, that which receives Christ’s love, frees us, forgives us, and redeems us. By faith God reckons us righteous. (Paraphrase Ap. 3. 115 in K-W).
Peter has already stated that. Now he says the end of all things is at hand and we must cover one another’s sins. This is reflective of what God has done for and to us. Peter is quoting Proverbs 10:12. There we read: “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12, NKJV) This is the exact same idea that Paul proclaims in Colossians 3. He says:
Elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Col 3:12–14)
How many times has hatred grown and divided families over what seemed an inequity in an inheritance? How many times has pride kept us from apologizing or from accepting an apology? How many times have we gossiped and slandered rather than speaking to the person who somehow mistreated us? Hatred, pride, and jealousy stir up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins.
That is what the Holy Spirit wants for us. He wants us to live together as Christians, in peace, not because this will prove our worth to God or cover our sins in His eyes, but because this is what it is to be in the image of God, to not only be forgiven but also to be forgiving, and this is what makes for the good life, for the abundant life. We were made for one another and we were made for love.
Offenses have and will flare up between husband and wife, father and son, and between neighbors. Christians must not be not obstinate, harsh, or intractable. Instead, we must, in love, overlook certain mistakes and weaknesses and explain the actions of our loved ones in the kindest ways possible. This is necessary for preserving holy marriages and families. It is also necessary for preserving congregations and synods. Imagine what a disaster it would be if you could not overlook some of my weaknesses or if I tried to hold the confirmands to an exact keeping of the 4th commandment. Indeed, this love is even necessary for the state to prosper and remain. Those who insist on absolute justice, who cry an eye for an eye, when they themselves have been forgiven, are like the unjust steward condemned by Christ’s parable. They destroy relationships. They endanger faith. They make life sad and difficult.
Nonetheless explaining everything in the kindest way and disciplining our flesh so that we do not judge motives, and covering a multitude of sins, does not mean that there are no consequences for sin, that we should pretend that we can’t see sin when we can, or that the criminal has the right to tell the victim how to react. Jesus does not tell His disciples to put a happy face and thank those throwing them out of the synagogues or killing them for His sake. No matter how much the disciples might love those who did these things to them, it won’t matter if they deny Christ. For whoever denies Christ before men, Christ will deny before His Father.
Therefore impenitence and wickedness must be called to repentance. Sinners must be warned. The repentant must make restitution for their sins as they are able and strive to do better. The covering up of sins for the sake of love is not for the purpose of enabling the behavior to continue or to deny that it took place. Rather it is to allow us to grow and to move on in forgiveness and with a clean conscience.
Thus as each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.