This morning I was asked to give my thoughts on the King James version of 1 Peter 4:8 "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
I always look beyond the world of Christian brothers and sisters and consider this and other passages as a challenge to serve others outside the church walls. It should be a given that the church will come alongside others in need in the church community (club?). It is unfortunate that sometimes the church drops the ball and misses opportunities to serve those in their own community/tribe. Think about it, if we can’t take care of our own, how are we going to be a light to others?
Quick word study. The word for fervent in Greek is ekten, and it also means out-stretched or earnest. I love all three definitions! This is an adverb that demands action. This action requires a stretching, probably to the breaking point. How much are we required to give and serve? To the breaking point! Is this the breaking point Jesus was challenging the Rich Young Ruler?
The word for charity, in this passage is agape. Interesting! We know that agape is love in the Greek, an unconditional love. Agape love looks for nothing in return. No return on investment. No recognition for a job well done. No awards, or plaques, or cash bonus.
We are clearly instructed to love others. 1 Peter is talking to the community of followers of Christ. But I feel we need to also combine that with the teachings of Jesus: to love and serve our neighbor, regardless of the lifestyle, social status, race, religion, sexual preferences, etc. to the breaking point. And we need to love and serve those that are in need: the widow, the orphan, the foreigner (illegal alien?), the sick and infirmed, and the prisoner.
Finally it is this agape, unconditional love, charity that is going to cover a multitude of sins. That’s interesting too! So my love for another will cover their sins?
Before you are quick to say that Jesus is the one and only that covers our sins, consider the stretcher bearers carrying the invalid to Peter’s house (Mark 2). They couldn’t get in so they tore a hole through the ceiling and lowered the man down to Jesus, right in the middle of Peter’s living room. I think Jesus laughed hysterically at the scene, as dry wall and popcorn ceiling fell on him and everyone in the room. I also imagine Peter being pretty ticked off by the scene as he considered the cost to repair his ceiling.
Jesus looks at the invalid and then to the four guys staring through the giant hole in the ceiling. And what did Jesus say? When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Seems to me that a multitude of sins are being covered by the fervent love and charity of others!