1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
The above quotation is taken from Proverbs 10:12, “ Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” It is clear from the context that it is our love that will ‘cover’ the sins of others. I remember Pastor Al Martin saying years ago that our hearts will either manufacture magnifying glasses to enlarge the sins of others or blankets which will cover their sins. Neither the Apostle nor Solomon are saying that sin does not matter or that it ought never to be confronted, but simply expressing what will happen in our relationships when love and grace are the dominant notes. In recent months I have been meditating upon these verses from a somewhat ‘reversed’ position. That is to say when love and grace dominate in your life that love will cover a multitude of your sins in the sight of others. When your own life is flavored with grace and mercy, by love and affection for others it is often (not always…see 2 Cor. 12:15 ) given back to you in kind. It is hard to find much fault in large hearted, loving, serving, child of God. Perhaps I should say, it is hard to fixate upon those faults. Their faults are minimized by the predominance of their gracious character. The same holds true of churches. It is easy to find fault and to nit-pick when a congregation seems cold, indifferent, and distant. If a true child of God notices in the pastors and in people a heart of love they can put up with a lot of ‘faults’ and even real sins. He may not be the best preacher I’ve ever heard, but I’ll gladly listen to him if I know he loves me. They may not have the best music or facilities and their doctrine may be skewed in this area or that, but they are marked not by their deficiencies but by their love. Our own hearts will often produce blankets in others.
I believe that every church has at least two “climates” that will mark them to one degree or another. There is a climate of truth and, for lack of a better term, a climate of culture. The climate of truth for most Reformed Baptist Churches is laid out in our Confession of Faith. These are the things ‘most surely believed among us’. To some degree or other, we claim this document as the doctrinal foundation of our churches. Its truths come out in our preaching and prayers. It is part of how we identify ourselves. But churches also have a certain ‘culture’, a way of doing things. A way of practically living. This will be seen in how we worship, what we sing and how we sing it, it will even affect things like how we dress and the overall ‘climate’ of our public gatherings (more formal, less formal, etc). I believe that in our churches one or the other of these ‘climates’ will gain the preeminence in the thinking, desires, and preferences of our members. Far too often the climate that ‘wins’ is culture and not truth. Let me explain. Let’s say that you have a family committed to historic, confessional, and baptistic doctrine who attends for some years what may be called a traditional Reformed Baptist Church. The pastor preaches with a coat and tie, he stands behind a pulpit, the church uses a hymn book, perhaps a pianist is utilized or there is no instrumentation at all. They move to an area in which there are two ‘Reformed’ churches. One is a church where the pastors embrace and love the 1689 and the other is an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This 1689 church is a bit more on the ‘progressive’ side. They utilize power point and the pastor sits on a stool and wears no neck tie. The OPC church however has the same ‘culture’ as their previous church, coupled with serious deviations on doctrines which are important to any knowledgeable and convinced Baptist. What is the family to do? Let’s flip the situation. A family comes from a progressive church and they move to an area where there is a confessional church. A church which holds ‘the things most surely believed among us’, but they sing hymns! The pastor wears a tie. The church is ‘formal’. And what do they do? They find a church with a band but with doctrinal that departs from their confessional understanding and conviction. What has triumphed? Not truth, but culture. I’ve seen both scenarios numerous times and from both sides. Brethren, are we instilling in our pulpits and in our pews the excellence and the preeminence of truth or of preference? In things themselves or how they are fleshed out? What will be the climate which is ultimately embraced, loved, and lived out? May God help us to keep the main things the main things.
From Spurgeon’s “The Full Harvest”
We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low. The tender love which chastises us the gentle kindness which bruises us, the fond affection which crushes us to the ground — these we do not so readily recount; yet is there as much of divine love in a smart as in a sweet, as great a depth of tenderness in buffeting as in consoling. We must count our crosses, diseases and pains if we would number up our blessings. Doubtless it is a mercy to be spared affliction, but he would be a wise man who should tell which of the two was the greater boon — to be for the present without chastisement or to be chastened. We judge that in either case it is well with the righteous, but we will not have a word said to the disparagment of affliction. Granted that the cross is very bitter, we maintain with equal confidence that it is also very sweet.
HT: Todd Pruitt