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And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” -- 1 Pet 4:8

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. -- Prov 10:12

What does it mean for "love to cover a multitude of sins"? Does it mean one of the following?

  1. Love prevents you from seeing or noticing sins at all?
  2. Love allows you to see sins, but you overlook/ignore them?
  3. Love allows you to see sins, but you forgive them?
  4. Something else?

Also, in these two verses, the teaching/admonition seems to be directed toward man for human-to-human relationships, but how does "love covering a multitude of sins" play out in God's love toward man?

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@RSW: in James 5:20 and 1 Peter 4:8, the English words "shall hide" and "shall cover" were translated from the Greek word καλυψει (a form of the Greek verb καλυπτω). This verb can be variously used to say to cover up, to hide, to veil, to hinder the knowledge of something (see, e.g., Strong's G2572). Perhaps this information might help you to better answer your questions for yourself? –  Pat Ferguson Aug 21 '13 at 21:14

4 Answers 4

Love certainly does not mean ignoring sins or not noticing them at all. It is unloving for us to notice a fellow Christian living in sin and not help them. And when they sin against us, we are not to act like nothing happened in all cases, but we are to confront them Biblically when appropriate.

R.C. Sproul Jr. wrote an excellent article on the subject here. In summary, he said:

When we are wronged our calling is to practice a careful moral calculus. Is this offense one I should let go of? Is it among the multitude that love covers? Or is this offense grievous enough that love means confronting in grace my brother? Sadly what we usually do is think we are practicing the former while actually holding grudges and putting miracle-grow on roots of bitterness. Peace in the church calls us to under-accuse, over-repent and over-forgive. Let us not be afraid to call sin sin, but let us not be slow to forgive it and to look past it.

There are cases where we are to overlook. If they were inconsiderate and bothered us, in many cases it is better to simply overlook and move on. But if the sin is greater, then we should confront them using the model presented in Matthew 18:15-19. In all cases, we should have an attitude of forgiveness towards them, willing to forgive the wrong when they ask for forgiveness.

In relationship to God's love towards man (and you could probably ask a second question on this part), we are to love because God first loved us. He paid the price for our sins on the cross, and forgave us our sins:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

God's justice demands there must be a payment for our sins. But because Christ died on the cross for them, God forgives us if we truly repent. Sometimes, God confronts us with our sins using some earthly method. But God always forgives, and we should too.

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Interesting that Sproul Jr. says, "When we are wronged our calling is to practice a careful moral calculus." I always figured my "calculus" is never as accurate as God's direct leading by his spirit. Isn't it safer to let God show us how to respond in each circumstance than attempting to calculate the response ourselves? –  RSW Aug 23 '13 at 11:02
    
@RSW - I think his point was probably along the lines of practicing a careful calculus with God's leading. –  SSumner Aug 23 '13 at 13:04

The blood ofJesus was shed to deal with the remission of sins. This means the penalty of sin has been removed. Said another way, God is not going to punish us for our shortcomings. This is what it means to "cover" sins. God is telling us not to punish another for their shortcomings which impede upon our liberties (vegeance is mines saith the Lord). Jesus did not ignore the sin of the woman caught in adultery, he dealt with it in love by telling her to sin no more. The key point of the passage is that the pharisees wanted to stone her, but Jesus refused to condemn. This is grace in action. Grace eliminates the shame and condenmation that would otherwise come from falling short of the glory of God. Satan (on the other hand), is responsible for bringing shame and condenmation by highlighting our violation to God's laws. Everyone violates God's laws (everyone). We don't need Satan to tell us that because God has already told us. But what Satan really wants to do is use the holiness of the law to bring us into shame and condemnation, which is opposite the message of the gospel.

So if you want to walk in love, then don't punish others when the despitefully treat you. Go as far as the Spirit of God (that's in you) will allow you to go, even unto death. But if you cannot die for another, don't feel ashamed because grace covers you too! God will die for another because he is full of love and grace, like no other. Only God can be God. We are all learning and being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. Life long endeavor (which you will never actually achieve), thus no need to be ashamed. God made us a little lower than himself. Be content with that and do not attempt to take over his thrown (as this is what led to the fall of Lucifer). God is love, we are growing in love. Love covers a multitude of sins.

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It means exactly what it says. Why make this so difficult? Jesus loved all the way up to the cross and loved those people without their repentance. Paul also said, "why not rather just be wronged?" in 1 Corinthians 6. It's better for us to do the loving and forgiving and leave the judgement and repentance to God or the authorities. God is the only one worthy to judge. He has taught us to love. There's no need to qualify that love with restrictions.

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Dec 15 '13 at 4:19

It simply means , that all the act of hatred and sins will be washed away if you learn to forgive. You can't forgive and be forgiven if you don't know how to love and accept your mistakes. Loving one another is the stairway to heaven. Through this , we will be saved .

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  Caleb Feb 23 at 13:34
    
We're looking for answers more on par with thesis paper summaries than this. We really need you to cite references for specific doctrines, identify who believes what, and generally sort out the details like that. I know this site has a huge learning curve, but we really need more effort than this. Would you care to edit this post and up the ante a bit? –  Caleb Feb 23 at 13:34

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