God’s Word for You
1 Peter 4:7-9 love covers a multitude of sins
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 11, 2022
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
Peter doesn’t hint. He preaches. He’s described Christ’s descent into hell, and the punishment of the unbelievers in the days of Noah. In that example, he took the closest thing to judgment day—“Judgment Day Minus Eight”—to remind us that judgment is real and catastrophic. And now, after talking about some of the challenges that face Christians in the present day, he brings out the final judgment: “The end of all things is near.” This was thirty or thirty-five years after Jesus ascended into heaven, but we must always assume that the end is near. For one thing, the end is nearer with every passing hour of life for all people. And Jesus promised—promised—that he would return with no warning, “like a thief” (Luke 12:39-40; Revelation 16:15; 2 Peter 3:10). We must be prepared.
Be clear-minded. This is a word (sophroneo, σωϕρονέω) that is closely related to “be of sound judgment” (sophronismos, 2 Timothy 1:7). Combined with self-control, this shows Peter’s urgency: Use your head. Think about the way you live, the way you act, the way you speak, the way you respond to people. We know a lot about body language, and it’s important not to let one’s physical self (posture, eyes, hands, etc.) convey a message that our spiritual self doesn’t want to convey. And the purpose of all this? “So that you can pray.” Lead a life that is as free from sin and error as possible so that your prayers can be intercessions for others and not only filled with repentance for yourself. It is not wrong to repent. Not at all! But the Christian wants to be able to pray about more than his own sins.
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Peter does not mean that the love of a human, not even of a parent, covers over or atones for sins. He is using the language of Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” James and Paul said similar things (James 5:20; 1 Corinthians 13:7). What Peter and Solomon mean is that when we love, we are willing to overlook wrongs, and to forgive each other. Once my wife and I had a disagreement in front of some of her sisters and sisters-in-law. I remember leaving the room, but I turned around right away and came back and apologized, and we both said, “I love you.” One of my sisters-in-law dropped her jaw and said, “How did you just do that? I wish my marriage was like that.” And when my wife replied, “That’s what a Christian marriage is like,” it started another argument in the group, but that’s a story for another day. Whether it’s a marriage or a friendship or a relationship with co-workers, it’s better to forgive and be forgiven than to always insist that you’re right. If you constantly challenge everything, people will begin to leave your orbit. That’s the same as stirring up dissension. But love covers over a multitude of sins.
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)
In the ancient world, “stranger-loving” (hospitality) was an important duty. It still is in some parts of the far east. Our culture is passionate about privacy, but there are still opportunities to offer hospitality. One of these is for college students or other temporary residents. You only have them around for a short while; offer the gospel while they’re around, and this will include inviting them to meals at your church or meals in your home, and other gatherings of church or even family.
The Apostles are consistent with their urgings to show hospitality: “Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13); “Show hospitality” (1 Timothy 5:10). And even more, when they are workers in the kingdom: “Show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth” (3 John 1:8). But there is a limit to this: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching (of Christ), do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (2 John 1:10-11). John was applying that specifically to false teachers and to those who deny Christ. We must not support their ministry. Today, at a time when we seldom invite people off the street to sleep in our homes (as a way of supporting ministry), we must also apply this to sending or giving donations of money to those who preach false doctrine. Give your gifts to your church to support the work there within your fellowship. And here is a good place to add: “Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17). This is what Isaiah also said: “Those who should guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray” (Isaiah 9:16).
So: Do not offer hospitality or support to anyone who comes teaching anything apart from Christ. But as for everyone else, offer hospitality! When you see children in your neighborhood, stop and buy the lemonade they sell. When your neighbor has a rummage sale, go and say hello even if you don’t plan to buy anything. Give your offerings to your church week by week and support the ministry there. And when someone wants to know about the faith you have, take time to share your faith. If you don’t know what to say, begin with the Apostles’ Creed, and let them ask questions. Your Sunday school faith will carry you along, and the Holy Spirit will give you enough words to share.
Pastor Timothy Smith