Should I Cover Sin With Love?

Text: 1 Peter 4:7-14
In the name of Jesus: Amen.
Our Gospel and Epistle readings are rather interesting today.  In the Gospel reading from the Apostle John, we hear Jesus saying that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. And as you know, the Truth not only sets us free, but the truth often hurts.  However, in our Epistle reading, the Apostle Peter calls us to love one another so that our love can cover a multitude of sins.
So, needless to say, when looking at both of these readings together, we are now faced with a bit of a problem.  If the Holy Spirit is all about truth, and since we have the Holy Spirit, are we not to be truth bearers? Are we not to call a spade a spade – to call a thing what it is, to speak the truth about the Law and Gospel? Or, are we to go the way of love and sweep everything under the carpet as they say?  Is the Apostle Peter in conflict with Jesus’ Word and the Holy Spirit? Or should the Holy Spirit ease off on truth and be the Spirit of love?
Dear friends, it is not either-or today. That is to say; there is no conflict between love and truth. You see when Peter says that love covers a multitude of sins he is not saying that love covers all sin, as if you and I should hide criminality and turn a blind eye to blatant sin in our midst.[1]  In other words, when a fellow neighbor becomes mean and ugly and does things that the devil applauds, well… you and I are called to testify to the truth. 
For example, when you are blatantly sinned against by another Christian – the kind of sin that is like a hateful dagger in the heart which keeps you up at night – well, you should go to the person that sinned against you and talk to them privately.  But before you go to them, you need to own up to your sin in the conflict, the ways that you contributed to the problem in the first place.  That way, when you approach them, you do not come with your guns loaded.  That way, when you approach them, you approach them with gentleness and humility.  Furthermore, by going to them privately, you are giving your fellow Christian the opportunity to repent and save face without publicizing their fault to the rest of the world. Indeed, when you go to them privately, you are allowing them the opportunity to apologize and receive forgiveness, without all the drama that can come about in the public arena of opinion. This is what it means to speak the truth but to do it in love.
Ah, but let us be honest with ourselves, how often do you and I not go to our fellow Christians with love and truth but go to everyone else – playing the victim – telling everyone how bad they were?  Lord have mercy on you and me too! 
Let us go back to the idea of love covering a multitude of sins, though.  If Peter is not referring specifically to ugly, cruel, and blatant sins that need to be confronted privately one-on-one and sometimes publicly through church discipline, what is he referring to? Well, Peter is referring to the hundreds of sins, faults, mistakes, and failings that our fellow neighbors commit every single day – often without even realizing it.  He is calling us to bear with our neighbors because we know just how much of a pain we are daily to ourselves, not to mention others.
You see, love does not dismiss the truth of your neighbors’ blatant sins and their sins of weakness.  But instead, when it comes to the sins of weakness, well… love covers these sins with compassion.
So, for example, when you are in constant contact with your neighbor, you will most certainly see all of their sins of weakness.  And instead of sweeping them under the rug and instead of blowing the relationship up, love covers your neighbor’s sins of weakness with things such as praying for them, putting the best construction on them, encouraging them, or offering to give them a helping hand, even though they might not deserve it.  Yes, love doesn’t dismiss the sin but covers it, for love does not seek to gain but seeks to give.  Love is not irritable or resentful toward your neighbor, and it certainly does not rejoice in your neighbor’s sins of weakness.[2] 
All of this is the opposite of hate, though. Yes, that is right; hate does the opposite of love. Hate grabs ahold of truth, strips it of love, and then pries into your neighbor’s life with a magnifying glass - digging for sin to broadcast before the entire world.  You and I know what this sounds like:
“Did you hear what so-and-so just did?  Can you believe that?  In all of my years as a Christian, I have never…” 
Indeed, hate grabs ahold of sins of weakness, exaggerates them, snickers in devilish delight, and then uses these sins to destroy a struggling neighbor in the arena of public opinion, while building up ungodly self-righteousness.  Lord have mercy on you and me too. 
Frankly stated and hitting really close to home, a large majority of the problems inside the walls of the church today are because we do not cover the sins of weakness in our fellow Christians but instead treat these sins as if they are unashamed, noisy, blatant devilish sins. And while doing this, we at the same time turn a blind eye to the real blatant sins in the church and treat these blatant sins as if they are sins of weakness.  We invert everything.  We Christians will shrug our shoulders to blatant abuse of God’s Word, blatant sexual deviances, and blatant idolatry, to mention a few, while blowing each other up over a brief conflict after a voters meeting on the colors of carpet for a church hallway.  We go the way of straining out gnats and swallowing camels. 
But why does all of this matter? 
It matters because this is not who you are!  You are the baptized!  The Lord God has taken you from the Kingdom of Darkness and placed you into the Kingdom of God.  You have been given the Holy Spirit by baptism and the Word. And the Holy Spirit is truth, not lies. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit gives you holy impulses so that you begin to love your neighbors, not hate them. 
We hear this from Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading,
“I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my just decrees.” 
You see, you are given the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Comfort against terror. He is the Spirit of Witness against tyranny. He is the Spirit of Truth against falsehood. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit brings about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in you.  You are given the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in love when faced with blatant sins, as well as to cover the sins of weakness in your neighbors with love. 
And when you don’t do this? Repent, dear Baptized Saints!  Yes, you and I need to repent and remember that this is not who we are; we belong to the Lord.  You are the baptized; forgiven, and marked as the redeemed!  Yes, you are forgiven in Jesus this day.
Baptized Saints, it is only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacraments that you and I are continually cleansed of deceit and given new hearts to love.  Therefore, may it be our continual prayer that the Lord God would continually create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us.  May the Lord continually restore to us the joy of salvation every single day so that we might be given truth and love.  Yes, truth, so that we may speak the truth of Law and Gospel. And love, so that we may cover a multitude of sins in our neighbors, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To Him belongs glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

[1] Blatant sin: sin done in an open, unashamed, noisy, and unsubtle manner.  

 [2] See 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. 

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