“…you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Christians expect mistreatment at the hands of unbelievers. But when disappointed by those professing faith and maturity in Christ? When the expectation remains unmet, invitation unaccepted, and longing unfulfilled? When he lashes out—again. When siblings persist in their distractedness rather than seeming to care. When parents criticize and small group members scrutinize. When the heart breaks, along with confidence in the relationship. What then? Often we withdraw, tunneling inward for self-preservation.
Peter offers some counsel, nestled like Jordan Almonds amid the rows of crème and crepe-paper of First Peter: “Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins…Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” (1 Peter 4.8,10, NET). Did you notice his two imperatives?
Love and serve one another.
One another. Peter uses the pronoun heautou, “one another,” to denote reciprocity and clarify the context as the community of believers (Mt 16.7-8; Eph 4.32; Col 3.13, 16).
Notice the precedence of prayer (v. 7) which enwraps the love and service. In prayer we convey fears and frustrations, disappointments, inabilities. We commune with God. He illumines His Word. Our hearts (mind, will, emotions) shift. Frustration transforms into right-focus, disappointment to discretion, short-sightedness to right-mindedness, and we fill with the richness of agape.
Love. Agape (Jn 5.42, 15.9-13, 17.26; Rom 5.5; 8.35, 39; 13.10; Eph 2.4; Jude 21) enlivens and enables us to love (Jn 13.35; 1 Co 16.15; Eph 1.15; 4.2, 15-16; Rev 2.19), to forbear rather than fault, to cover rather than condemn.
We must refrain from misconstruing its fervency (Grk, ektenes, meaning a stretching, extending beyond the borders we establish) for ignorance of or immunity from sins (Gen 3.8-9, Ps 51.4, Hos 11.1-3, Jn 19.16). Agape neither validates nor excuses sins. It covers them—a “multitude” of them—with its shell.
Serve. God gives endowments (Grk, charisma) to His people for the building of the Body (Rom 12.6-8; 1 Cor 12.4-11, 28; Eph 4.11-14) and as a display of His grace and wisdom (Eph 3.10). Peter also instructs believers to exercise the gift of hospitality (v. 8) as a means of extending agape and serving believers scattered and suffering.
Agape stretches to cover offenses and serve the masses.