One of the most uncomfortable and countercultural aspects of Christianity is its dependence on death. In our Western culture we abhor even the mention of death. We fend it off, euphemize it, and ignore it. When it comes to death, we cover our eyes like children; if we refuse to see it, then it must not exist. But the very hope of our faith depends on death—the death of Jesus and our death to sin.
From the first verse in today’s reading, we see it: Christ suffered in the flesh (1 Peter 4:1), we were baptized into His death and were buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3–4). This is no morbid wallowing in mortality, nor is it merely a metaphor. This is the path to following Jesus. Christ’s death truly killed the power of sin and death, and in Him sin is killed in us too. We live “no longer for human desires, but for God’s will” (1 Peter 4:2). Our old self was crucified so that sin would be rendered powerless. We died with Christ, so we could live with Him (Romans 6:6,8).
What does this look like? It often means our lives make no sense to the world around us. Our neighbors, friends, and coworkers may even resent us for no longer living like they do, as we leave behind our sinful lifestyles (1 Peter 4:4). In Christ we can’t follow the same evil desires we did before. We are tempted, and we will sin, but our lives are no longer ruled by sin. Instead our lives are to be marked by urgency and alertness, because God will judge both believers and unbelievers (vv.5–7). We are to exemplify Jesus by being hospitable, serving, using our gifts to care for others, and speaking God’s Word to one another.
“Above all,” Peter says, “maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” (v.8). He is echoing an ancient proverb God gave Solomon (Proverbs 10:12) and tying it to faithful discipleship. Love should be constant, not wavering or wilting, depending on feelings or circumstances. It is to be “for one another,” meaning believers in Jesus are to love other believers in Jesus. This means no division, no gossip, no backbiting, for love allows no room for those.
Love covers a multitude of sins, and it’s a good thing, too, because we will commit a multitude of sins. How does love cover them? Covering doesn’t mean making, fostering, or protecting them in secrecy. No, love smothers sins and protects sinners. It covers sinners like clothes cover nakedness, like armor covers and protects a body. It cover sins like a debt already paid, gone and done with, forgotten and settled. We know this because this is how Jesus loved. He killed sin and saved sinners, so that God would be glorified through Christ. So we seek to do the same in our obedience, faithfulness, and love for one another.
Written by Barnabas Piper