Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

Part One


[I. Introduction] Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), the flying department of Wycliffe Bible Translators--had flown thousands of hours over a 25 year span without one fatal accident before April 7, 1972. On that day, a Piper Aztec lost its right engine and crashed in Papua New Guinea, killing all seven persons aboard. The Aztec had just rolled out of the Wycliffe maintenance hangar the day before following a 100 hour inspection. The chief mechanic was stunned when he heard the news of the crash. Reviewing in his mind each step he had performed in inspecting that right engine, he suddenly recoiled in horror. He remembered that he had been interrupted while tightening a fuel line and had never returned to finish the job! That faulty connection had allowed raw fuel to spray out and catch fire while the Aztec was in flight. The mechanic's guilt at being responsible for the deaths of his companions crushed him. For days he did not know what to do. The other mechanics tried to help him, as did his own family. But when the family of Doug Hunt, the pilot who was killed in the accident, was preparing to return to their home in New Zealand, the mechanic knew he had to see them, talk with them and beg their forgiveness. He could barely get out the words as he sobbed in their presence. "That hand there," he said, looking at his right hand, "took Doug's life." Glennis Hunt, Doug's widow, embraced him. "Glennis sat by me and held the hand that took her husband's life," he later wrote, "and another JAARS pilot sat on my other side with a demonstration of love, comfort, and forgiveness. That was the most significant first step in the healing process."


The airplane mechanic sinned against the pilot, Doug Hunt, because his neglect took his life. He sinned against the widow, Glennis, because he took her beloved husband. He was responsible for those seven lives. But because Mrs Hunt and the other pilot loved him they forgave him. Love covers a multitude of sins.


Please turn to I Peter 4:8.    Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (ESV) 


The apostle Peter had just given a good deal of God-inspired directives to his readers. They were told, and we are told to:


  • Set their hope on the coming of Jesus
  • Flee from passion
  • Be holy in all their conduct
  • Live with the fear of God
  • Put away malice
  • Put away deceit
  • Put away hypocrisy
  • Put away envy
  • Put away slander
  • Long for the milk of the word
  • Come to Christ (not initially, but continually)
  • Offer spiritual sacrifices
  • Proclaim the excellencies of God
  • Abstain from passions of the flesh
  • Conduct themselves honorably
  • Be subject to human institutions
  • Honor others
  • Fear god (second time this is mentioned by Peter in this letter)
  • Be subject to their masters (today we would say, “Do what your boss tells you to do.”)
  • Endure sorrow
  • Follow Christ’s example
  • Wives be subject to your husbands
  • Wives be respectful to your husbands
  • Wives have a gentle and quiet spirit
  • Husbands be understanding with your wives
  • Husbands honor your wives

And all this is only through the first half of the book!


As Peter is concluding his admonitions to all the elect (1:1), because in chapter five he will address the elders, he writes in verse 8, “Above all…”


Are these things that he directed his readers to do important? Is it important to set our hopes on the coming of Jesus? You bet your life it is! Is it important to flee from passion? Yes! Allowing passion to influence you is a path to great disappointment. Is it important to be holy? Only a person unfamiliar with the Scriptures would answer that in the negative.


All these things are important! Yet, Peter says, “above all!” Above all these things, as important as they are, there is something more important. Keep loving one another! He has already told them twice to love one another in 1:22 and 3:8. Now he says, “Keep loving one another.”


As Peter is nearing his conclusion to all the elect, what does it imply for him to write, “keep loving one another?” [Answer: that there is a tendency to lose our love for one another.] This verse might remind us of the Ephesian church at the time John wrote in the book of Revelation. They had started out with much love for the Lord. But their love had dissipated. They had abandoned their first love. Oh, brothers and sisters, we can lose our first love for the Lord! And, we can lose our love for one another! Keep loving one another!


That is not all he says. He tells us how we are to keep loving one another: earnestly! The NASB and NKJV express it as a “fervent love.” Phillips has “real, deep love.” In all these translations the idea is that our love must be genuine and more than surface. We must not go through motions of love alone. We must really love one another. The love should be in our heart and not just in our mind. It might begin in our mind, but it must take us over. Hallelujah! What a wonderful thing to be taken over by the love that we were meant to have! Love makes everything easy.


Love makes covering sin easy!


This is the second half of the verse. According to Peter, why should we keep loving one another? Because it covers a multitude of sins.


What does it mean to cover sins? One might think it means to hide sins. That is, after all, one meaning of the word “cover.” But, this is not what Peter is saying. When in doubt, let the Bible be its own interpreter. In Psalm 32:1 we read:            Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.


This verse, as so very many in the Psalms, exhibits a literary devise known as parallelism. It is especially found in poetry, like the Psalms. There are more than two kinds of parallelism, but the two predominate types are synonymous parallelism and antithetical parallelism. Those are sort of big words but the ideas they represent are very simple. Synonymous parallelism is when two adjoining phrases express the same thought in different words. Antithetical parallelism is when two adjoining phrases express contrasting thoughts.


Psalm 32:1 is an example of synonymous parallelism. “Whose transgression is forgiven” is the same thing as “whose sin is covered.” A transgression is the same as a sin. Forgiveness is the same as covering. Hence, when Peter writes that love covers a multitude of sins, he means that love will cause us to forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters. When you hear or read the word “covers” in this passage, think “forgives.”


[II.] We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the great need. John Wesley was a great evangelist during the 18th century. He, along with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, was one of the men whom the Holy Spirit used to bring about what has been called The Great Awakening. In the 1730’s and 40’s the preaching of these men and others was used by the Holy Spirit to bring hundreds of thousands of conversions to Christ. So much, that the moral landscape of America was changed. One doctrine that Wesley taught was that it was possible to be sinless in this life. Edwards and Whitfield opposed him on this idea and rightly so. Both Scripture and experience teach us that sin is a struggle for the child of God. The struggle gets easier the longer we walk with the Lord (if we are faithful to fight against sin in our own lives), yet it is a present reality.


Recently, I gave a message on the stewardship of our bodies. I also posted a series of blogs on the church website which promoted physical culture as an expression of good stewardship. In both of those venues I quoted the theologian Robert Reymond as he summarized well the condition of mankind after the fall. It is worth repeating.


Man in his raw, natural state as he comes from the womb is morally and spiritually corrupt in disposition and character. Every part of his being – his mind, his will, his emotions, his affections, his conscience, his body – has been affected by sin. His understanding is darkened, his mind is at enmity with God, his will to act is slave to his darkened understanding and rebellious mind, his heart is corrupt, his emotions are perverted, his affections naturally gravitate to that which is evil and ungodly, his conscience is untrustworthy, and his body is subject to mortality. The Scriptures are replete with such representations of the condition of fallen man, as the following verses verify: Genesis 6:5-6; 8:21; I Kings 8:46; Psalm 14:1-3; 51:5; 58:3; 130:3; 143:2; Eccl 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 11:13; John 5:42; Romans 1:29-32; 3:9-23; Galatians 3:22; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19; I John 1:8,10; 5:19.[1]


When a person gets right with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within the believer and begins a life-long process of transformation, of overcoming the effects of sin. This is called sanctification. Praise God! By His grace and His power we are being changed! But we still carry within us the corruption that Dr. Reymond describes, which is precisely what the Bible reveals.


This means that those around us will still sin. Do you know what else? They will sin more often than they think they do.  (Every person looks at his own actions in the best possible light.) This means that our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our children, our parents, our co-workers will be sinning and we will see this. And, we won’t like it. Often, their sins will affect us, either directly or indirectly.  The sins may not be great in degree. That is, they may not be those sins that call for radical action like adultery, fornication, murder, assault, and the like. (On the other hand, they may be. There are sins that the Scripture considers very serious and which require a bold response. But those kinds of sins are not what this message is about.) The sins by those we are closest to may not be great in degree. But they will be great in number.


I am not saying that any brother or sister will always have a great number of sins. There are some Christians that do live a sanctified life. There is such a thing as Christian maturity and personal holiness. What I am saying is that, given that we are a body of many and that we are still broken people, we will be exposed to many sins. The many sins means that our need, as a people, for covering these sins is great.


We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the great need.


This also means that we still sin. We likely sin more often than we think we do. This means that our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our children, our parents, our co-workers will see us sinning and they won’t like it.


We need the covering as much as others need our covering! The need is great.


Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one.


We are all little boys and little girls who drop light bulbs. We need to be Thomas Edisons who keep giving light bulbs out, too.


[III.] We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because our sins will only be covered by God the same way that we cover others.


Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  Then Jesus did as his disciple asked. He taught them how to pray and he gave them what has become to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. The NIV has Jesus teaching his disciples to pray this: (Luke 11:4)


There are two kinds of forgiveness in the Bible. They do not come with a label, however. The Bible just uses the word “forgive” and one must consider the context of the passage to determine how it is being used. One kind of forgiveness is that before a court of law or before God Himself at the Great White Throne judgment. We may call this judicial forgiveness. Whoever is not forgiven by God judicially will never enter His presence but will suffer eternal torment. Those who believe into Christ receive forgiveness for all their sins because he paid for all their sins. Those people (and I hope you are all in this group) will never experience eternal torment.


The other forgiveness is that experienced in a family. It is a forgiveness that restores fellowship. If one of my children sin against mom or dad through disobedience they do not cease being my child and I don’t love them any less. But there may not be any harmony between us and I will likely not be happy with them until there is forgiveness asked for and granted. Then the fellowship returns. It is the same with our heavenly Father. Sin disrupts fellowship. This is the forgiveness being spoken of in the Lord’s Prayer.


Now, in Luke 11:4 does it not seem that our forgiveness is dependent upon both our asking and how we forgive those who sin against us? Read it again: “Forgive us our sins,” That is asking. “for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” But, do we? DO WE?


The CEV has:  Forgive our sins, 
as we forgive everyone
 who has done wrong to us.


Jesus is even more clear on this subject in Luke 6:37-38.           “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”



Brothers and sisters! This raises the bar, does it not? Whether we will be forgiven at the tribunal of Christ depends on whether we are forgiving others now! Again, this passage is speaking of family forgiveness. These verses ought to make us somewhat fearful. They ought to stir us up to be tender-hearted and forgiving towards one another. If you are holding a grudge or harboring bitterness towards another, you are causing yourself great disappointment in that great day coming.


There’s a great day coming, a great day coming;

There’s a great day coming by and by,

When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left,

Are you ready for that day to come? (Will Thompson)


Will Thompson wrote that song over 100 years ago and he had in mind the final judgment. But the judgment seat of Christ for us is also a great day. In order to be ready for that day we must be those who cover the sins of our brothers now.


We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because our sins will only be covered by God the same way that we cover others.


[IV.] We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because it measures whether love or hate predominates in our hearts.


When the apostle Peter wrote the words that we have been studying, he was quoting a proverb. It is Proverbs 10:12.


Hatred stirs up strife,

but love covers all offenses.



What are the two types of parallelism that we talked about a short time ago? [Answer: synonymous and antithetical] What kind is Proverbs 10:12? [Ans: Antithetical] Solomon is contrasting two dispositions of the human heart towards those who offend, those who sin against you. One is love. This was the part of the proverb that Peter quoted. When love is present in the heart of the sinned-against there is the initiative, desire, and fruition of forgiveness.


What does the first part of the proverb say? Hatred stirs up strife. When does strife occur? It does not occur when someone has done nothing whatsoever with respect to another. It occurs when someone says or does something that offends another. When hatred is present in the heart of the sinned-against there is an initiative and desire to say something either to or about the person who did the sinning.


Therefore, according to Scripture, whether we cover a sin reveals whether we have hatred or love in our hearts.


We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because it measures whether love or hate predominates in our hearts.


Someone may be thinking, “What is in my heart is in my heart and I can’t change it.” Wrong! While it is true that our desire to forgive or lack thereof does indeed reveal the love or hate we possess, it is not true that we cannot change. Our hearts can change and they can change quickly. God made us so that our thoughts and feelings direct our actions. But He also made us so that our actions influence our thoughts and feelings.


When we perceive an unwillingness to cover the sins of our brother or sister (or, husband, wife, children, parents!) then we have learned something about our own heart. The first thing we ought to do is confess our lack of love to the Lord and go ahead and forgive those small sins. Forgiving in itself will stir up love in our hearts where it once waned.


[V. Conclusion]


  • We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the great need. (sinful nature – theirs and ours)
  • We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because our sins will only be covered by God the same way that we cover others.
  • We must cover the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ because it measures whether love or hate predominates in our hearts.

We are all like that Jungle Aviation airplane mechanic who needed forgiveness. And we are all like Glennis Hunt, the widow of the pilot. We need to not only cover, but stand next to our brother and hold his hand. Let us love. Let us cover.


[1] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: T. Nelson, ©1998), 450-51.