"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8
At first glance this verse from God’s scripture seems to be about the way our love for others can address both their sins and our own. However, the persons addressed and those they were urged to keep loving were believing Gentiles, as opposed to non-believing Gentiles. Since my initial reaction lines up better with my own idea of how the love of the Gospel works, I wondered what I’m supposed to make of Peter’s words. Of course, one of the big issues Jesus addressed in his ministry was our strong tendency to judge others, including people we don’t even know, a judgment usually based on our own “better” behavior. My head just spins when I consider all of the different ways we attempt to do right by following a few basic rules in areas such as driving our cars, leashing our dogs, paying our taxes, writing thank-you notes – you probably can see where this is going. Just give us ten basic rules to live by and we will take it from there. We all should know where that got us. Those Pharisees thought they were doing right, but Jesus made it clear that their fierce efforts to follow rules did not even cover the first two commandments. I probably don’t need to remind you that we also fail in this respect.
Looking at Peter’s admonition for believers to keep loving earnestly, I can’t help thinking about his earlier weaknesses and the way Jesus demonstrated his forgiveness and love by giving Peter his mission to “feed my sheep”. Peter knew too well that all believers are in need of love and support because that weakness to sin is in us all. On the other hand, it is apparent that the focus here on the Gentile believers, people who have acknowledged that they are sinners in need of God’s grace, and not on those others who have refused this and have continued their sinful ways, indicates that Peter is encouraging those believers, Jesus’ “sheep”, to love and support each other knowing that they are still capable of just about anything.
Referring to the way we often judge strangers, I sometimes find myself on such an occasion recognizing that the person in question is not doing anything that one of my own beloved children or friends is not guilty of doing, and neither am I. Welcome to Club Pharisee! Imagine how my opinion regarding someone commonly seen as “crazy” changed after seeing my own young son suffer from psychosis when his affliction with bipolar disorder first made itself known. The tendency to judge, as well as the fact that we are under God’s grace because even our best efforts are tainted, is why we need to pray for each other, in addition to those still in the dark. We have no idea what another has experienced leading to how we perceive their behavior. After all, as the saying goes, “never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins”. (In fact, we probably judge the Pharisees!)
Love others earnestly and pray for them and yourself – we all need that!