“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).
In anticipation of Jesus Christ’s soon return (I Peter 4:7), God commands believers to be self-controlled and sober-minded. God also encourages believers to do something more: to love one another. This is an example of self-control and sober-mindedness.
The phrase above all (πρό; pro; πᾶς; pas) means that which is of the greatest importance for the believer in Christ. In spite of everything else that God calls the Christian to do, the most important thing to do is to love.
The word love, or its participle form “loving,” is from the Greek word ἀγάπη; agape. This is the highest expression of love. More than a mere friendship or physical, sexual attraction, this love is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is a self-sacrifice for another which is not based upon the temporary or fleeting emotions of the moment but rather upon a solidified resolution of one’s will. It is the love God demonstrated to a fallen, sinful world by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to save sinners.
I John 4:7-11 expresses it well. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
This is the type of love we are to have for other believers. This is more than implied by the apostle when he uses the familiar biblical phrase, “one another.” While God calls Christians to display varied behaviors toward one another, the most frequent and familiar is to love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; I Thessalonians 4:9; I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 John 5).
This self-sacrificial love is patient and kind. It isn’t envious. It isn’t boastful. It isn’t arrogant or rude. It does not insist on having its own way. It isn’t irritable or resentful. It isn’t happy when things go wrong for someone else, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. See I Corinthians 13.
There is a qualifier to God’s directive. God calls Christians to love one another earnestly. To love earnestly (ἐκτενής; ektenes) means to self-sacrifice with a continual eagerness. The word, in its Greek origin, refers to the tight muscles of an athlete who strains to win a race. The believer’s unselfish love and concern for others should be exercised to the point of sacrificially giving for another person’s well-being.
As the believer loves like this, their love will cover (καλύπτω; kalypto) hide or keep secret a multitude of sins. A pastor wrote that, “This kind of strenuously maintained self-sacrificial love is not blind but sees and accepts the faults of others (cf. Proverbs 10:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4–7).”
Therefore, while it is appropriate to anticipate the soon, return of Christ from heaven to earth, let us not shirk from our present responsibilities: especially God’s call for us to love one another.
How may you show self-sacrificial love today towards someone? How may you display patience, kindness, humility, and a true happiness for someone when things go well for them? This may be at home, work or even at school. This is the hallmark of a true believer in Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!