“Love covers a multitude of sins.”
I remember hearing this passage ‘quoted’ as a little girl. For the longest time I thought it was an actual verse. Imagine my surprise, or not, to discover it’s actually a compilation of two verses from two different authors.
In the organization I grew up, this passage was used to abuse saints and excuse bad behavior, which were sometimes crimes. You’re a pedophile? We’ll just move you to another assembly. If anyone complains, we will say “Love covers a multitude of sin.” Really, what we did is not love or charity. What we did was hide a criminal and condemn his victims to a life of shame and secrecy. This is what happens when people use the Bible to control people and gain power.
When I started blogging about my father a well-meaning soul reminded me again of this ‘scripture’. It is better to be silent about his sin. To not expose the truth. Love allows for redemption. It was hard to analyze whether they were speaking ‘the truth in love’ or just trying to avoid what his arrest meant. My father, after all, raised us in a holy place. He raised his hands and prayed to his maker in service. He ‘led’ the church to worship three times a week. Surely it would be better for us all to ignore the fact that this man molested a child, actually several children, including his own daughter and son. Wouldn’t it be more righteous for us to be quiet? So that in 10 years, if hell freezes over and he makes parole, he could be reconciled to his family? I was too numb to respond properly.
As you well know, I have a habit of not doing what I should. So I spoke up. I spoke out. I spoke loud. If I was asked, I told the truth. The man is sitting in a jail cell waiting to die. If they asked why I told them why. It is definitely a conversation stopper. Mercifully most of the people who knew my father now know the story. I don’t have to repeat that again.
I have found strength and a voice in speaking about the sexual abuse, its effects on my life and my recovery. I have been brave and vulnerable. I lost much and gained what was eternal.
Yet. In the back of mind there’s been this nagging thought: Have I done what is right? Have I merely participated in gossip? It’s a really hard thought to push away.
What I need to do is find the answer. In the Word. Not in the ideas and imaginations of the people who allowed men like my father to hide in their presence.
This phrase comes from two passages of scriptures: I Peter 4:8 and James 5:20.
James 5:20 (KJV) – Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
I Peter 4:8 (KJV) – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
When studying the Bible I like to analyze the context. As I read James over and over, (It was the younger pastor’s favorite book) I begin to believe the author was writing to saints struggling with personality conflicts. Peter makes his comment in the midst of a set of verses about hospitality and charity. These were letters written to people that lived in a society and time that I don’t intimately understand. I cannot use my American, post-Puritan viewpoint to read these letters.
To find the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew words, I use Blue Letter Bible. Sin is the word I want to focus on.
In both passages the word sin is translated from the Greek word Harmatia.
equivalent to 264
to be without a share in
to miss the mark
to err, be mistaken
to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong
to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin
that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act
collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many
The Hebrew has a different viewpoint of sin. It’s translated from the word chatta’ath.
sin, sin offering
condition of sin, guilt of sin
punishment for sin
purification from sins of ceremonial uncleanness
The last few years I’ve begun to believe that the definition of sin has been broadened to include things that they shouldn’t. Not everything I do wrong is a sin; some things are just mistakes.
It’s scary really, to base my entire life-worth upon a Greek translation — a culture that until Paul brought them the gospel, was considered the ungodly in the eyes of the LORD God of Israel. James and Peter were Hebrews. They would have a Hebrew viewpoint of sin and death. Yet, we adhere to a Greek mythical interpretation of what sin is; why is that? Why do we not consider what the Hebrew meant, if it is indeed ‘God’s Language’? It leaves me wondering just what did my brothers mean when they wrote those words? Sometimes there are no answers to questions and the Holy Spirit just has to speak to a heart.
After the crime, born out of the sins of my father, was committed against me, LOVE covered me. It covered me and held me and kept me alive until I was in a safe place. It doesn’t HIDE sin. It doesn’t EXCUSE or JUSTIFY sin. Like Jesus with the women at the well, it exposes sin, so the sinner can no longer hide from their sin. Abba forgives sin; He does not remove the consequences of sin.
I still don’t have a complete understanding of what the authors meant. What matters is that I no longer believe we can use these verses to allow sin, especially crimes, to remain hidden.