It is a sad fact that one does not have to look at the Christian church very long before discovering that believers often do not love each other as they ought. The proliferation of denominations is one example of this. While it is true that many were formed out of a legitimate need to maintain the purity of the Gospel, it is also true that others started because individuals could not lovingly tolerate disagreement on matters not essential to the faith. Even now, what should be minor issues become major ones and insults are hurled across denominational lines at those who share the true faith.
Perhaps more troubling is the fact that even believers within the same church have trouble loving one another. How many of us dislike others in our own church simply because they have certain quirks or have not progressed as far in their sanctification as we might like?
As today’s passage shows us, this is not as things should be. Peter tells us that more than anything else, believers must love one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8). He has encouraged us to do this before as a means of standing firm in the faith (1:22). Today he tells us to do this because “love covers a multitude of sins” (4:8).
We must note here that Peter is not telling us that our love for one another provides atonement for sin. Rather, he recognizes that we will experience a host of problems from other people, real or imagined, and that we will not be able to forgive and help them to grow if we are not loving them earnestly. And if we cannot love earnestly, God’s people will not be strengthened to stand firm in the midst of the trials Peter had in mind as he wrote this letter.
God does initiate and guarantee our final salvation (1:3–5). However, He makes us persevere in it through the use of secondary causes. He uses the love of fellow Christians to keep us firm in the faith. Therefore, we must eagerly love even the “unlovable” in our churches. In 4:9, he tells us that one way we can do this is to show hospitality without grumbling. We should be eager to be God’s means of strengthening others, and we can do this through fellowship with one another in our homes and by sharing our lives with them.
Are you doing what you can to love earnestly and overlook a number of minor offenses from other people? Or do you tend to hold grudges? Are you expressing your love for others in your church through hospitality, or do you routinely avoid fellowship with others? In prayer, go before the Lord and ask Him to help you love other Christians. Then, show hospitality to someone whom you have trouble loving, perhaps by inviting them over for a meal.