We’ve been in 1 Peter for a few months now in our Shepherding Group. Last night we walked through chapter 4, verses 7-11, and I’m struck again by the Church’s need to adopt what C.S. Lewis and John Piper call a “wartime mindset.” When there’s a war on, people think about life, and about each other differently. War changes us, reorients us. And God’s Church has a clear calling away from comfort as we wait for the return of our Lord in the enemy-occupied territory of a fallen world. Here are a few points that we discussed in our group:
1. The end (or “completion”) of all things is at hand (V. 7a).
Christ is coming soon, probably sooner than we often think. We live in a world full of very real suffering and brokenness. But our King has promised to return, and the world is speeding toward that day. If God has drawn you to Himself, out of your sinful, spiritual death, take care to cultivate a longing for your Savior to come back. God is unfolding a plan of redemption through all of our suffering, which will be brought to completion on the day His Son returns for His Church.
2. Be self-controlled and sober-minded.
Living in enemy-occupied territory and battling our sinful flesh for sanctification should makes a Christian aware and focused. The opposite of this is stated back in 4:2,3 where Peter tells to live no longer for “human passions” or for “sensuality.” There is a very serious battle going on for the “outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls” as Peter says in 1:9. 1 John 5:19 tells us that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” May we not be caught unaware and comfortable, but be found “sober-minded,” watching for the return of our King.
3. Keep loving one another earnestly, and serve one another with your gifts.
Peter tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins.” He means that love, sincere and fervent love for those in God’s Church, will not hold grudges or be divisive. Love will forgive, and unite again and again in the fight for faithfulness and obedience to Christ.
A wise member of our group made a great point that this passage does not make a case for tolerance, or encourage us to excuse sin in the Body of Christ. If we look at the passage in the greater context of all of Scripture, we end up putting it alongside passages like 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, that say to put an unrepentant sinner out of the Church. Sometimes the most loving thing is to confront a sin, and maybe even deal harshly with the situation. The goal is always for a brother or sister in Christ to turn from a sin, not to continue in it.
So this passage in 1 Peter tells us to love continuously, not overlooking unrepentant sin, but always pursuing forgiveness and unity instead of grudges and gossip. This is the covering of sins mentioned here. Sins that are really forgiven won’t keep plaguing the Body of Christ with disunity and bitterness.
We need to be unified in God’s call to live out what it means to be the redeemed Church. After all, there is a war going on. We have some pretty big fish to fry, as it were.