While reading through Proverbs again I was particularly struck by this verse: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (10:12 NKJV). A companion verse is 1 Peter 4:8, where Peter was quoting the original: ‘And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins”’ (emphasis mine).
But what does it mean for love to “cover” sins?
I think this is an issue we as the Church and as individuals often face. Sin is, well, SIN – are we supposed to casually ignore it because we are being “loving”? Not at all. True love, as we find in 1 Corinthians 13, is always truthful (v. 6) – and oftentimes the truth is painful to both the giver and the receiver. God certainly doesn’t just say, “Oh, no big deal. Everyone sins sometimes. Let’s just forget about that, shall we?” No – our sin, our disobedience, brings Him great pain, and ultimately it will cause us and others to suffer as well.
The real problem is that our concept of what it means to “cover” is misinformed. Love does not hide sin, sweeping it under the rug of ignorance; love always brings light, and with light comes life.
And then I had a beautiful God-thought: love covering. That is what love does – it provides a covering. Not to hide the ugliness of sin but to purify and redeem what it touches. Like the garments God provided for Adam and Eve after they realized their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), our love covering strips away shame and offers wholeness. Likewise, when the prodigal son returned to his father’s house, the father brought out the best robe and clothed his wayward child (Luke 15:22). This is what our Heavenly Father does for us. The love covering He provides is not something that hides sin, but rather it removes filth and shame and guilt, covering the nakedness of sin with the pure warmth of grace.
Now, of course, what Adam and Eve and the prodigal son received were but a shadow of what we now have; our ultimate Love Covering came through Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). It is the power of the cross through the resurrection that allows us to lay our ashes at the feet of Jesus and exchange them for a holy garment of purity and fellowship with God. In that moment, we are accepting His love as the covering that alone makes us whole. It is exquisite.
But that is not the full extent of the love covering. God convicted me of this recently. Only Jesus can provides the atonement for sin and thus the final Love Covering, but we as His Church are called to extend His love covering not only to other believers but to a world that doesn’t know what true love looks like. Love is wonderful when it is aimed at us, but we often shy away when the time comes to direct it toward others. I know I do, at least. After all, it is so much easier to show where someone has gone wrong than offer a solution.
It is so much easier to walk past when you should reach out. It is so much easier to focus on self than it is to focus on other. Loving hurts, and that is why we avoid offering a love covering to others, that extension of God’s grace that brings life.
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 10:13 ESV
We are very good at pointing out faults – sometimes we act as though it were our job and not the Holy Spirit’s to convict others of sin – but we don’t often offer a love covering. People need to see the love of God demonstrated through our actions and words. Sometimes providing a love covering means that you step in to fill the gap where you know another is weak. True love offers strength and hope; instead of just pointing out the “gap,” love stretches to cover and fill it. True love builds up and does not tear down. It gives when it does not receive and endures when all else crumbles. And this love, this glorious covering, needs to be extended just as much to unbelievers as to believers, for it is the proof of His Love living in us:
‘“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”’ – John 13:34-35
Unfortunately, we are quick to rescind this love covering when others make mistakes. We draw back and begin to cling to hatred, allowing its little roots to settle in our hearts and minds. Hatred, though, is a two-way poison. I am sure we can all agree that hating is an ugly thing. No one thinks well of hateful people. But did you ever stop to think about the hated person? The truth is that, just as hating never made anyone better, so being hated never made anyone better.
Your Savior loved you before you were lovable (Romans 5:8), and His love is what makes you loving, lovable, and lovely. Jesus Christ already died for every sin – past, present, and future – and it is not your job to decide who should receive the covering of His love. He gives freely and without measure to all, for His Love has already covered every sin. Hatred is a bitter cup to bear, whether you are giving or receiving, but God’s love is the wellspring that never runs dry.
Will you choose with me today, this very moment, to set aside hatred and extend His love covering? Only the covering of His gracious love denies the authority of evil and breaks the bonds of sin. Only True Love redeems, and only True Love never fails.
May we give as we have been given and cover as we have been covered, for His love heals, blesses, and restores that which has been cast aside as broken, cursed, and bruised. May the Lord expand in you and through you His glorious Love Covering as He teaches you how to love as He loves.
Are there any areas of your life where you need to receive God’s Love Covering? Are there any people who you specifically need to extend a love covering to?