Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
When young and first in love, romantically involved couples will often overlook significant flaws in each other. They may even find these idiosyncrasies cute in their beloved. The young lovers are of course, infatuated with each other and later, when the shine wears off, these shortcomings will become problems in the relationship that will be either be addressed or the relationship will suffer. But for that brief time, when the relationship is new, the infatuation completely blinds them to their mutual faults and failures.
In today’s passage, Peter described a healthier, albeit somewhat similar, phenomenon in our interpersonal relationships. In it, he said that, as Christians, we must choose to love those around us. We must choose to be benevolent and kind. In doing so, we give ourselves the ability to be more gracious about the imperfections in others. We’re all flawed, but as Christians, we’re supposed to show our neighbors the love God has shown us. This isn’t natural though. Because we’re flawed ourselves, it’s far easier for us to be critical, hateful, and condemning. When we see someone struggling with failure, our natural impulse isn’t to get to know their story. It’s to shake our head, condemn, walk away, and remain strangers.
When we don’t know someone personally, and all we understand about them is their faults, it’s easy to hate. This is why online interactions can be so vitriolic. If we don’t have any personal connection to someone and we’re never going to meet them, it’s easy to say terrible things that we’d never say to their face. Once we get to know the other person, finding out they’re human just like us, it’s much more difficult to hate.
This works both ways. If we invest time, love, and goodwill into the lives of others, they will be far more gracious about our flaws. If all others know about us is our whining and negative attitude, they’ll have little interest in our wellbeing. If, however, we’re invested in their lives, loving, serving, and being kind, then we’ll likely receive love and grace in return.
The infatuation of the young lovers is impulsive, not requiring any effort. It just happens. This love that Peter spoke of though, is a daily choice. When we see our neighbor struggling, we won’t naturally feel a sense of goodwill and benevolence towards them. As followers of Christ though, Peter said we must choose to be kind and gracious. In doing so, we will find that the love and grace that God has shown us, flows through us into their lives. This is what it means to follow Christ.