Living Loved When Living Is Hard | Day 9
Reading | 1 Peter 4
“Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (HCSB)
In this season of my life, I’m learning about engagement.
Okay, not like the pre-marriage engagement but more like the act of being engaged in what is happening. Especially in light of recent events happening in our country, I don’t want to have regrets because I was too worried or too stressed to be emotionally present and invested in the lives of those around me. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities God is giving me because I’m too caught up in my own selfishness. I want to eat ice cream with someone and be wholly there, not distracted by everything going on in my head. I want to be invested in the lives of my friends, not in the lives of strangers I don’t have a relationship with. I want to be mentally and emotionally engaged in worship, not just singing the words because that’s what is on the screen. I want to grow from constructive criticism, not get defensive because it wounds my pride.
I don’t want to make light of the Las Vegas shooting, but sometimes it takes tragedies for us to realize what is really important in our lives.
I’ve grown up fairly exposed to violence and how fragile human life is. The school shooting at Columbine happened when I was 9 years old. I was in 6th grade when 9/11 happened, and news coverage of the War on Terror was airing every morning while I was getting ready for school. The tragedy of Sandy Hook happened the December before I began student teaching. I drove by the locations where two police officers were shot in cold blood every day on my way to work last year. Monday, a man killed 59 people and injured over 500 in 10 minutes.
Life can change in literal seconds.
I think seeing that has helped me value relationships and appreciate their importance. I’ve always held my friends as a very high priority in my life, but I’m trying to do better about loving the people around me every day. We don’t know how long we have with someone; we don’t know what battles they might be facing or struggles they might be wrestling with. I want them to be better after being around me, not worse. The world has enough pain and cynicism in it already.
I wonder if Peter was thinking along these lines when he wrote verse 8: “Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Remember he was writing to a group of people whose lives were drastically changing. Over and over again Peter reminds them to stay strong, living with a hope in Jesus Christ, but here he gives them the ultimate command: Keep loving each other.
If anyone knew about love covering a multitude of sins, it’s Peter. I mean, I love Peter. Hands down, he’s my favorite person from the Bible (besides Jesus, obviously), but, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t exactly be considered the poster child for modern-day Christianity. It’s not that Peter was a bad guy – I’m pretty sure his intentions were good – he just had a tendency to speak and act before thinking. On the plus side, though, Peter wasn’t afraid to take risks. This is the guy who walked on water with Jesus and cut off a soldier’s ear the night Jesus was arrested.
But Peter often let his fear and doubts get the better of him.
While he was walking on water, he started to sink when he realized what was actually happening. Once Jesus was arrested, Peter violently denied that they had any connection.
Both times, Jesus let grace and love cover Peter’s shortcomings.
Peter wasn’t perfect. Jesus knew that. But I think Jesus also knew Peter’s potential. God had created Peter with a unique personality, and Jesus knew the impact Peter would make if he had the opportunity to do so.
Obviously, we aren’t Jesus. We don’t have the all-knowing mind God has. We might not know the ultimate potential someone has. But, what could happen if we tried to see it?What would happen if we looked past the sins of our brothers and sisters and began encouraging their strengths? What would happen if we chose to lovingly admonish one another rather than condemn?
You see, Jesus never once scolds Peter for his mistakes. When Peter lost faith and started to sink, Jesus made sure he was safe. Only after Peter was held securely by Him did Jesus ask him why he doubted. I don’t even know how many times I’ve heard this story. I grew up in going to church almost every time the doors were open, so I’m sure I heard it hundreds of times, and every time, I heard mockery in Jesus’s voice. “Oh you of little faith,” He sneered, “why did you doubt? What’s wrong with you.”
Do you understand how that can affect your view of Christ? Instead of a loving Savior making sure Peter is safe, Jesus turns into a “holier-than-thou” saint who condemns Peter for messing up. But that’s not who Jesus is. He’s the perfect Shepherd who doesn’t rest until every last one of His sheep is home safe. He’s the compassionate Friend who makes sure His bros are safe and cared for before He asks them what happened.
A similar thing happened after Peter’s denial. Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey, remember that time you were swearing about how much you didn’t know me?” Instead, Jesus asks Peter to take care of His sheep. The great Shepherd asks the man who denied Him to take care of His precious sheep, the same sheep He died to rescue. The all-mighty Creator asks the man who deserted Him to help build His church. Jesus doesn’t condemn Peter for doubting. He doesn’t condemn Peter for being scared. He looks past those shortcomings and helps Peter be a better imitation of Himself.
Jesus doesn’t condemn Peter for doubting. He doesn’t condemn Peter for being scared. He knew the trials that would await Peter, but Jesus also knew the potential Peter had. Christ chose to look past Peter’s sins and mistakes in order to help him be a better imitation of Himself.
As with Peter, Christ never forces us to pay for the things we’ve done. Instead, He willingly died so that He could pay that debt for us. It’s a debt we never could have paid. But He did.
Sin is a part of this life, and it’s going to happen. We’re all going to mess up. We’re people, and to quote Gieco, “it’s what we do.” But never once did Jesus condemn. He never forces us to pay for the things we’ve done. Instead, Jesus willingly died so He could pay the debt we never could have hoped to pay.
The fact that Jesus had to die to rescue us from sin shows how serious our sin is. There is nothing flippant about it. There will be times you’ll have to get in your friend’s face about the way they’re living. True friendship isn’t about turning a blind eye when a friend screws up or filling them up with empty praise. That’s not love, that’s fangirling.
I once heard that real friends question you. They know the good version of you that does exist, so they want to sweep away all the crap builds up so that the good part of you can shine. Real friends know what your goals are, so they’re willing to call you out when you’re not being who you said you wanted to be. Real friends are going to want you to live godly, pure lives, so they are going to (and should) call you out for crap when you’re starting to look less like Jesus and little more like the world.
So yes, admonish one another when it’s needed, but please don’t condemn. We need to stop holding one another’s sins and remember they’ve already been taken care of when Jesus died on the cross.
There’s not much certainty in this life. No one is guaranteed another day. Maybe instead of harshly criticizing and condemning one another, we need to work on challenging each other to be more like Jesus. All of us have sin and weakness and other issues that we struggle with. All of us have personalities that are bound to clash with someone else. It’s time we begin to look past those things and start to see the unique gifts and strengths all of us are blessed with.
Challenge those around you to be who God created them to be. Push one another to be better. Look for the potential in your friends and urge them to reach that. Don’t settle for the nitpicking and bickering because it’s easier to point out someone’s shortcomings than to look for their strengths.
That’s what loving someone is. It’s the daily commitment to help one another become more like Christ.
Guys, just love Jesus and people, and it’ll all work out fine.