Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1Peter 4:8)
If you owed me one million Kenya shillings, there is a way in which we would relate. If you are an unfaithful debtor you would be trying as much as possible so that we do not meet! If you are a faithful person then you would try as much as possible to repay back the money. You would give me promises and would as much as possible try your best to honor them. Do we relate with other Christians as if we owe them anything? We all know of the verse in Romans 13:8 that tell us very clearly that we are to “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”(Rom. 13:8). Now if we owe each other something do we conduct ourselves as if we have what belongs to them? We have been very clearly told the debt that we owe every Christian whether near or far, whether you know him or you don’t. It is your duty to remember that love is required of you by every one of those who the Lord has saved whether mature or old and so you should do everything possible to repay it sincerely and constantly.
The entire duty of Christians to each other is summed up in one word – love. Brotherly love is repeatedly spoken of in this letter (CF. 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 5:14) and in this passage we will be able to see how it is maintained and enforced. We will also see how brotherly love is manifested among believers later on in the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have been given. The love being discussed here is more limited in its range in that it is not for everyone but to be directed to the brethren since we are told keep loving one another earnestly. Therefore, it’s more comprehensive in its elementary principles. This is because we are not discussing love for all men but only love for the brethren. The end of love is to bring goodness and joy to the person who is loved. Love seeks to deliver its object from ignorance, error, sin and sorrow and seeks to make its object to fully enjoy the salvation that is in
Brotherly love is of the uttermost importance because we are called to it by the words – “above all things, have fervent love among yourselves”. Fervent love is that intense love that is rid of all coldness or lukewarm and is instead active and hot like fire. This is the love that cannot be hindered by anything to accomplish its purposes on its object. A Christian, who dearly and fervently loves the other, seeks his welfare and will not stop at anything short of that. One would be willing to suffer for the other. The intensity of this love is like the one that the
Lord had when the Bible records that being in agony He prayed more ‘earnestly’ Jesus
The love that is fervent has that constant continuance. Moreover, it is the continuity like that which marked the prayers of the early church when Peter was arrested by Herod because we read that the church prayed without ceasing for him. This is life-long love that even death is not able to extinguish. Therefore, it is that extensive, permanent love that we are urged here to maintain for each other.
“Above all things, have fervent love among yourselves.” That we are to have it as the statement reads means that we are to take hold possession of it – we are not to give it away or let it to be taken from us by whatever situation or circumstance for whatever reason. We to remain loving and caring for one another, even when there seems as if there is no reason to love. We are always to love without tiring or waning in love. Our love ought not to grow cold but instead we are told to see to it that our love is growing in its extent, intensity, continuity and in fervency so that we are all maturing in the manner of love for one another.
Imagine a person who has just been saved and has not known the Christian love – how will he learn how to love? It is by being loved and so being given the reason to love. He will love as he will see others love since he is a spiritual child. Through the ministry of the gospel, the reason why we are to love others is because God first loved us (1John 4:19). The one characteristic of children is that most of their learning takes place by imitation and so many of the experiences are not taught by word but by observation. Therefore, we are to love those who have recently joined us and so teach them by intuition how to love.
How are we to maintain this command?
It is by showing this brotherly love to all. Our love for one another ought to be conspicuous to all, not just private. Let the world know that we care and love one another in such a way that they will not be able to drive a wedge between us. Our adversary the devil knows very well how to scatter the sheep of
Christ. However, we are to resist the devil not privately but together so that all men shall know that you are the disciples of Christ ( John 13:35).
We should not be ashamed of one another, especially when in suffering. It is very likely that when one is trouble we might say, I don’t want to be identified with that one because he is HIV positive. I don’t want to be identified with that one because she lives in a slum. I don’t want to be seen with so and so because he doesn’t dress smartly. Remember that these are temporary situations that the Lord shall wean us all. Soon we will be at a point where there is no need for us to worry about what we shall eat or drink for we shall not hunger nor thirst in the presence of the Lord. We should not let water quench Christian love. Instead, let the world say “Behold, how these Christians love each other.”
We are to realize that the love that is well spoken by the unbelievers is attractive to them and so serves to evangelize without words. A loveless church will attract no one because it is rather than being a haven of peace and tranquility it becomes a den of enemies. It is by love that a church is established and built because love is the perfect bond (Col. 3:14).
Take this example, you are married, there are these young people here who will soon want to marry. It is your duty to show them that marriage life is not ‘hell’ as Classic Radio presents it to be. They say that marriage is hell, and it is indeed hell because they do not have God. However, marriage is as sweet as the life in the Garden of Eden was for those who are married. This is not to say that there are no difficulties but that the difficulties are sorted out in view of eternity. Please invite the young and unmarried brethren to spend a night with you so that they may learn one or two for the future.
It is love that makes the Christian faith living and active because without it, though one might have faith that commands mountains to be moved or to vanish, that faith is dead. This is because it is love that edifies both the Christians and the non-Christians. Faith works by love and one who has love is sure to have holiness because love fulfills all law.
Firstly, we need to remember how much love we have received from God in saving us. The salvation we have from God is so great that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
So what does it mean that ‘love covers a multitude of sins?’ Many have misinterpreted this verse to mean what their deluded minds want it to mean. They say that with love one can be justified! If this where the case, then salvation is by their merit and yet we know that no one will be acquitted by God on the account of what he has done since no one is able to fulfill all the legal demands of the law. Salvation comes only by trusting in the
Lord , who is the only one able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him (Heb. 7:25). He is the One who has died to pay the ransom price by His life and death on the cross. Jesus Christ
The fact of this statement, ‘love covers a multitude of sins,’ is used as the motive for our love for the fellow brethren. Note that it does not read, ‘love covers the multitude of sins’ but a multitude of sins. We need to ask, “whose love is it that covers a multitude of sins?” and “Whose sins are they that are covered by love?” We also ought to ask what is it that love does in reference to sin when it covers it? Consider the origin of this quotation in Proverbs 10:12, Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. The effect of the opposite of love is strife but love overlooks such small offenses.
Offenses against one another are bound to come. Brethren, as long as in this body and in this world we will sin against one another. If these sins against one another are not covered, what is the result likely to be? But fervent and sincere love gives no opportunity to offenses. The beginning of strife is like the letting out of water from a tank. Because then contentions will be extended and perpetuated. There will be divisions in the body. Individual edification will be materially interfered with. The Spirit of love will be grieved. The church will become impure and divided. Roots of bitterness will spring and the glory of God and His Christ in His Bride will be obscured. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! ... For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1, 3. Where there is love there is peace, and unity and joy.
If there is a duty that the Lord left us to do, is to love one another since He Himself gave up His life in order to show His love for us although we did not deserve it. Our love for one another is therefore a sure proof that we belong to Christ. It is love that truly reveals that we belong to the Lord who freely and graciously loved us. Furthermore, it is through love that we reveal other graces in our lives. For example, bearing with one another is only possible because of love. Peace is only cultivated where there is love. Humility and meekness are grown in the garden of love. Kindness and compassion are only known because of love. Unity is possible only where love has been established.
Joy is kindled and manifested in the field of love. This is because love is the first-fruit of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
We are to put on love as part of the garment that forms part of the robe of righteousness that the Lord has so graciously given us. Our love is not in word but in action and truth. Love is of God and so if we belong to God, if His Son lives in us, if His Spirit inhabits His temple in our hearts, then we are to love the brethren with the fervency that only comes from the Lord. To say that you love God and fail to love the brother is to concede to be a liar who is so deficient of truth that he is destined to hell. How can one claim to love God who he has never seen yet hate his brother who is so near him? That would be the worst of hypocrisy!
It therefore goes that the love of the saints keeps on growing and increasing and stretching in both depth and endurance as the Holy Spirit of God works in us to give us “the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19). Clearly it is the love of God that lifts and stretches our love for one another since it is God’s love that is communicated to us. We love because He first loved us and gave His Son. We love because Christ loved us even to die for us while we were still wallowing in the mire of sin.
As every gift and talent is sharpened by practice so is love. We are to practice love both consciously and unconsciously because it is our new nature to love. In this verse we are told what loves does to others – it covers a multitude of sins. Remember that love does not delight in evil. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1Cor.13:6-8). This is to say that you do not have love for a person if you take pleasure in finding and exposing their faults and sins with a purpose of ridiculing them. Unless by love one is willing to forgive up to the umpteenth time then there is no love. Love and forgiveness are twin-sisters because love does not keep a record of offenses but freely forgives every time forgiveness is sought because we have been forgiven a bigger debt. We are to be willing to forgive those who slander us and eat with them. We are to be willing to fellowship with those who have wronged us and cultivate greater and meaningful fellowship because it is not our feelings or emotions that guide us – it is Christ’s principles in His Word. Since we are walking by faith and not by sight, we are to show that we belong to
Christ by being as gracious as Christ has been gracious to us - although we can’t we are to try.
The other way of making sure we love is service to our fellow men. This is what follows in the following verses that we will consider next. But still I can say now that love is not theoretical – it is practical and is manifested in our service to others.
Christ took the towel and the basin to show the love we are to have – not one that pay lip service but one that serves others, even when they are as unwilling to be served as Peter.
How are we to serve others?
We are to serve them in the manner that the Lord has blessed us. What the Lord has given us is what we are to give. We are to extend the same hand our Lord and Master has extended to them. We can be of great service to Christ by being used as His instruments. We are therefore to love by giving. Giving advice and counsel to others. Especially rebuke and correction is so lacking in the Christian circles today, because we are also being affected by post-modernism. We are not to see a brother commit sin and behave as if we did not see. That is hypocrisy and is lack of concern for the other brother. We are to admonish one another (Romans 15:14).
Love seeks to deliver its object from ignorance, error, sin and sorrow and seeks to make its object to fully enjoy the salvation that is in
Christ. We are to constantly ask ourselves how have I shown love to my fellow in helping him come out of this or the other sin? You are told by the Apostle of love that if you see your brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life (1John 5:16). Please do not turn your head away when you see your brother in error on in sin but instead love him by seeking his welfare through pointing out sin to him that he would not be condemned in sin but have life.
You know your brother who has not been grounded on truth, it is your responsibility to seek to deliver him from the ignorance. Explain the Scripture passage to him. Seek every opportunity to share the Word of God, the pure spiritual milk so that your brother may grow thereby. Sometimes you are unable for one reason or another to share a particular passage, then get a book that would be profitable and give out.
Ask yourself, how have I helped my sister in Christ to trust in the Lord more, to enjoy her salvation more deeply and to walk with the Lord more closely? Have shown her how Christ is precious? Have I been helpful in pointing out the promises of the Lord? Let us remember that our enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Therefore, we are to everything possible to protect them from the devil and the evil world using spiritual means and the full armour of God, which are mighty in pulling down strongholds. How good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in harmony and unity. It is God honouring because God Himself commands a blessing there.