Having six children I am often fascinated by the relationship dynamics between siblings. Every emotion under the sun seems to find expression in my children toward their brothers or sisters. There is such joy in my heart when I see them love one another, and it grieves my heart when they are mean toward each other.
Unity in the body of Christ is maintained by love in the Holy Spirit. The triune Godhead is a community of love. There are no unity problems. The three persons of the Trinity provide the standard for our relationships in the body of Christ.
The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8).” The context of the passage begins with Peter’s dissuasion toward raucous living, especially as it manifests with too much alcohol (1 Pet 4:1–6). Sober people pray, while drunk people play. Wine is a mocker, and beer is a brawler (Prv 20:1).
Peter issues a sort of Christian “to do” list, much like Paul’s tendency to offer practical application in the second half of his epistles. Peter reasons: the time is near for judgment, so use sound judgment. Pray, love, be hospitable, and employ your spiritual gifts. Paul emphasized this by encouraging believers to, “redeem the time, for the days are evil (Eph 5:16).”
Just as love is supreme in 1 Corinthians 13 for Paul, Simon Peter also elevates love, “Above all…” Love motivates the Christian because the Spirit of love indwells her heart. If you have an imperative to love one another, you better be working with a motive of love. Most people have witnessed a parent’s attempt at reconciliation between siblings, by making them apologize, or hug, or hold hands. It is a bit comical because although the children may oblige their parent, they are momentarily void of love in the heat of overflowing passions.
Love is kind. Clearly, it must be voluntary. You cannot force someone to love someone else, otherwise, it is not love. Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders, “but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in your hearts (Jn 5:42).” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me (Jn 8:42).” The religious leaders said they loved God, but they did not recognize Jesus.
Love grows cold (Mt 24:12). It happens, especially where lawlessness runs unchecked. The Law of God is established to understand the boundaries of love. If you break God’s Law, you are sinning against God and your neighbor. There is no love in the thoughts, words, and acts of sin. Only where holiness prevails does love abound. By pursuing holiness, we are pursuing love.
Where there is a breach in the Law there is a hole in the heart of love. Some might argue that Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses. This is true. He did not fulfill it for the purpose of our neglect (antinomianism). It had to be fulfilled for God’s justice and our justification, but this opened the door for us to live by its rule for love’s sake (sanctification).
Breaking the Law, for a Christian, is no longer a legal concern, but it always remains a love concern. We simply cannot say we love Him without obedience. Jude condemned the antinomians. We must acknowledge that love does waver. This is why Peter says, “keep fervent.” It is an ongoing discipline to be practiced. Where God gives a discipline, He also grants grace to perform it.
It has been said, “Love is an action.” Actions, however, are the product of the heart, the mind, and the will. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prv 23:7). God enlarges our hearts when we walk in His commandments (Ps 119:32). Purify your heart (Jas 4:8). Love God with your whole heart (Dt 6:5).
God’s will is for you to love your neighbor, too, for in doing this you fulfill the Law of Christ (Rom 13:8, 10; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8). Thus, if you say you love God, and close your heart toward your brother, how can you say you love God (1 Jn 3:17)?
It is agreed in the writings of Peter, Paul, and John that Christians should love one another. Obviously, this imperative is derived from Jesus’ teaching (Jn 13:34). Paul is known for his love of the phrase, “one another.” There may be no better way to explain how believers should love one another than by doing all of the other one another imperatives. Be kind to one another, accept one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, etc., are just some of the ways to love one another.
Peter goes on, “love covers a multitude of sins.” He seems to be alluding to the wisdom of Solomon. It is the glory of man to hide the sins of others, but hatred discovers reproaches (Prv 10:12). Christ has covered our sins with His blood (Ps 85:2; Rom 4:7). It is His sacrifice which brings forgiveness to us, and it is our sacrifice, to forgive others, for their offenses against us (Mt 18:21; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13). In this, Christ acted toward us in love, and we who have been forgiven much, love much (Lk 7:47).
Love never fails to attain its end objective (1 Cor 13:8). The objective is mutual love. We might say, “God has awakened us to love Him, by His loving us.” Remember, we love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:10). Love enters us when the Holy Spirit enters us (Rom 8:9, 11). Paul wrote, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who was given to us (Rom 5:5).” Being born again, we do what we do in the love of the Spirit (Rom 15:30). If someone loves you, with the love of God being poured through her, what can you have against her?
There are some who claim that God loves everyone, but if this were true, love has failed to garner the desired response from the majority of sinners (mutual love). They do not love Christ. The cause is, “He loved us.” The effect is, “We love Him.” Those who do not express the effect cannot be the objects of the cause. Does love fail? God sets His love on His chosen people, and they respond with love for God. It does not fail.
Sin obviously troubles Christians, and for this reason, our relationships are troubled. We must follow Jesus’ example. To love our brothers and sisters, in the same way Jesus loved us, is what Peter was implying (1 Pet 4:8). John was direct, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16).” Sin hinders love, but we conquer sin through Him who loved us (Rom 8:37).
As you yield to the Spirit, you are accessing more love from God, who is love (1 Jn 4:8). The Spirit is ever producing fruit in the life of the one yielded to Him (Gal 5:22–23). The first of these fruit is love. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing regarding agape love, God’s love.
God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline (2 Tim 1:7). There is one who covers a multitude of sins, and this is the one who turns the sinner back from the way of destruction (Jas 5:20). What can win the soul of the sinner? It is the power of God’s love, which we know, covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). Therefore, brethren, let us keep fervent in loving one another, not with word and tongue, but in deed and truth. We know this is pleasing to our Father.
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 26, 2021