This quarter I am actually participating in a class instead of teaching one and I find myself with a group of men ranging from 30-70s. We are studying the book of 1 Peter and we came across a verse that struck a nerve with me.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
The context for this verse is that the audience Peter addresses is encountering or will encounter immense persecution. Peter, above all, wants them to learn how to “be church” together and a way they can do this is to love each other deeply as the new NIV says. What concerns me is the phrase “love covers a multitude of sins.” The last verse in the book of James is strikingly similar:
“…remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)
Without getting into the Greek and becoming too technical I just want to pose a theory to you that may or may not be right. I think what Peter and James probably mean by this statement is that by loving and restoring people God forgives their sin either because of their repentance (James) or their response to love (Peter). However, a different theory I want to pose to you is on the part of the person loving and restoring. When a person seeks out and loves then God seems to cover their sins as well. It is like a ROTH IRA. A ROTH IRA is a tax-deferred savings plan that is an excellent option when one wants to retire at the age of 65. In a different way God’s ROTH IRA is moments like James 5:20 and 1 Peter 4:8 where he looks at all of the people we have restored and loved and then looks at our sin and says, “I have forgiven you because of all of the love you have done.” God is the only one who covers sin and the work that Christians do by serving and loving is only done through the death of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. I understand that. But there is something incredibly redemptive about serving people and helping to save people. I am not saying we should sin all the time and one act of kindness is going to cover all of our sin (see Rom. 6:1) rather I am saying that when we are doing discipleship correctly then our lives will not be lived with moments of love and service rather our lives will be lives of love and service.
What do you think?
 Simon Kistemaker (James, Epistles of John, Peter and Jude, p. 167) believes that James and Peter both are alluding to Proverbs 10:12 which says “love covers over all wrongs.” It is a possibility worthy of merit but perhaps this is a response to the firsthand testimony of Jesus who exemplified love in its fullest sense on the cross both covering our sins and saving us from death.