“Love covers a multitude of sins.” The words of 1 Peter 4:8 actually command Christians to “grasp” or “hold onto” fervent love toward fellow-Christians, and then states that such love covers – hides or veils – a “multitude,” many sins (the definite article “the multitude” is not present in the Greek text). The love in view here is “agapé,” the Christ-like care that puts another’s welfare ahead of our own, and if Peter is not directly quoting from Proverbs 10:12, the thoughts are nevertheless very similar.
Maintaining a fervent, earnest love toward Christian brothers and sisters is not always easy as the conflicts and disagreements between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39) and Paul and Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) clearly show. We DO sometimes try one another’s patience, and it is the desire and determination to copy in our own lives the love that Jesus demonstrated for US that should lead us to give more “fuel” to our love toward each other than to the exasperation we sometimes feel! (Note Hebrews 13:1.)
The Holy Spirit did NOT say here, however, that such love “excuses” or “ignores” sins! When we read in Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2 & 4:10 that our Father sent Jesus to become the propitiation or “payment” for our sins – fig., to “cover” them – He did NOT solve our sin problem by dismissing it; rather, our sins are forgiven because the penalty they incurred has been paid-in-full by the offering of Jesus’ blood in place of our own. In the same way, the love Christians share “covers” many sins by acting to correct or resolve them and not by overlooking them! James would note in James 5:19-20 that one who accepts correction when has erred from the right way has been saved from death, and the one who did the correcting has “covered a multitude of sins.” In working for the repentance of an erring brother or sister, and then by NOT constantly recalling to them and “rubbing their nose” in the memory of that sin, we are practicing the “fervent” love Peter prescribes here!
In 1 Peter 4:11-12, Peter expresses in vividly practical terms the same basic instruction Paul had given to the Colossian Christians in Colossians 3:17 – “…whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,”. Peter touches on both what we teach and what we do by telling us to measure our “preaching” and “practicing” against the “oracles” (words, message) and the ability given to us by God! The point is that GOD should receive all the honor and glory – through Jesus Christ – rather than any of US being exalted or “put on a pedestal.” (Compare this thought with Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13, where those brethren seem to have suffered from “preacher-itis” instead of honoring God.) This raises a question every child of God should ask and answer for themselves: “Do my words and actions honor or embarrass my God?”