Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Key to understanding this text is the word “covered.” What does it mean that “love covers a multitude of sins?”
In the context, love covering a multitude of sins means that Christ-like love is an attitude of the heart that does not keep accounts, is willing to forgive, and does not let bitterness take over (Matthew 18:21-22; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
But what about mistakes? Does love cover a multitude of mistakes. Mistakes like…
- Forgetting to lock the car door, which is then broken into.
- Failing to notify the Sunday school teachers that class has been cancelled, so they prepare for no reason.
- Running a stop sign, causing an auto accident.
- Spilling the glass of milk at dinner, ruining a dress.
These situations are mistakes not sins.
So, should love cover a multitude of mistakes?
Covering one or two mistakes is gracious and kind. Everyone makes mistakes.
But one or two mistakes might lead to three or four mistakes. Three or four mistakes might lead to a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes might lead to a habit.
And depending on the nature of the mistake, the pattern might need to be dealt with. For example, if your aging parent mistakenly continues to forget to take medication, this situation must be dealt with; the mistake can’t be “covered” in the sense of 1 Peter 4:8.
Of course, so far this blog has assumed that sins and mistakes are mutually exclusive categories. In reality, however, they are not. Overlap exists between them. Running a stop sign is a mistake but could be due to drunkenness—a sin. Mistakes also might be the results of habits that reveal character flaws. For example, if you loan money to a friend, and they lose the money, this might be a mistake. But if this happens multiple times, it might be a character issue—integrity, maturity, and trustworthiness.
Love covers a multitude of sins, but love cannot always cover a multitude of mistakes. Love (and wisdom) will not “cover” mistakes that are damaging to yourself or others. Jesus says it best: Christ-like love is “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
For an excellent sermon on 1 Peter 4:8, see here.