“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” (1 Peter 4:8–9, AV)
Everyone will, at some time, encounter a traumatic time. It could be due to religious persecution, sickness, the death of a loved one, economic struggles, the loss of a job, mistreatment, etc. In these times, what people need most is the medicine of love. Believers are all called to be doctors of love.
Years ago, a friend’s wife passed away due to cancer. Another friend and I invited him to have lunch. As we sat down and ate together, I could see that he was still hurting, in a state of depression. I made the statement, “God loves you, Jim.” To this he replied, “I don’t know that I believe that right now.” Seeing our friend in such an emotional state made the lunch difficult, but there was a degree of healing in our time together that we did not understand.
The healing was not in the words we spoke. It was in the love we demonstrated by just going the extra mile to be with our hurting friend. When people are hurting, they need genuine love and believers have that kind of love in them because they have the Spirit of Jesus and His love dwelling within (Rom 8:9).
Peter instructed believers that were encountering difficult times to “have fervent charity” for one another. The KJV uses the word, “charity,” agape, which refers to the type of love that Christ demonstrated towards us. Christ’s love is one sacrificially given to benefit others and bring them into conformity with God’s purposes. This is the kind of love believers must extend towards one another.
Peter indicated that the love “shall cover the multitude of sins.” There are several things to consider in manifesting this kind of love towards another believer. First, we must understand that it is our sacrificial presence that will have the greatest influence upon the one we love. The person to whom we minister must sense our heartfelt love. Frankly, we often choose the wrong words that may backfire in our attempt to console a person. Peter stated that our love will cover a multitude of sins.
Second, love will show compassion and forbearance when we are with the person. Often, they will be depressed, anxious, upset, or displaying a plethora of other emotions. When we love someone, we will be patient, kind, compassionate, and forbearing. Yes, we may identify attitudes that are contrary to what we think they should be displaying. However, we must understand the circumstances around the issue and respond in a loving manner.
Third, the idea of love covering a multitude of sins can refer to our loving attempt to restore one who has fallen in some way. Often a trial will have one on the edge of making a poor decision. Our presence and compassion may be all that is needed to cause them to make the correct choice. Yet, on other occasions the person may have already chosen the wrong path. In this case the loving thing to do is to seek to restore the person so they may walk on the right path again. However, remember that it is the spiritual person who can restore the person with a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1).
In demonstrating love, Peter also stressed the importance of hospitality. This involves inviting someone into your life in a close way. He tells us to show hospitality without complaining. Often it is around the table or even offering them a place to stay for a short time. Some think hospitality is a spiritual gift but the Scriptures indicate that it is a necessary manifestation of Christ’s love working through a believer.