All during the dreary winter, I daydream about the coming Spring season, when the weather turns warmer and the trees are budding out. I daydream about lunches in the park on a carpet of rich green grass in the open shade, under a large tree with brand-new leaves, and flowers blooming in patches all around. Along with that vision, I can almost hear the sounds of children playing nearby, and people chattering while strolling along the park’s trails.
My wife, however, dreams of something a little different as Spring approaches: cleaning and painting. Which dream will become a reality, my dream or hers? Yep, you guessed right, it is her dream that comes true. The cleaning, I kinda’ get; it has been a long winter and a lot of dirt and grime has been tracked inside, but what gives with the painting every year?
“Spring is a time when nature gets a fresh renewal,” she says, “and I want the inside of our home to have a fresh new look, too.” Then she adds: “Anyway, paint covers a multitude of sins.” The sins, of course, used to be the crayon and pencil marks that our small children would put on the walls, along with their scratches on the baseboards and doors. Now that the kids are grown and gone, the sins needing covering are the scuff and scrape marks placed around the house by a careless husband.
We’ll be painting a room or two, and the hall, of course, and maybe the kitchen cabinets. And there is always some touching up to ‘this-and-that’ at ‘here-and-there.’ When the birds are tweeting, the bees are buzzing, and the buds are budding, I’ll be inside watching it all through a window, which I’ll probably be either cleaning or painting.
My precious wife acquired the expression of ‘paint covers a multitude of sins’ from her grandmother and those words are always repeated, whenever a can of paint and a brush come out of the work shop. Her grandmother was a God-fearing Christian and I am pretty sure she cribbed that saying from the Holy Bible at 1 Peter 4:8, where it says, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”1 Anyway, strange as it sounds, when I see a new can of paint appear in the Spring, I think of covering sins.
‘Love covers a multitude of sins’ – What does that mean?
1 Peter 4:8 is a New Testament restatement of Proverbs 10:12 which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” which was one of King Solomon’s wise sayings. To cover sin means to forgive it and, since forgiveness is associated with love, we can understand that the verse is about ‘grace’.
A beautiful example of sin covering being extended is in Psalm 32:1. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose Sin is covered” (NKJV). Having received God’s forgiveness for his sins, the psalmist expressed his joy over that certainty. The term ‘blessed’ is usually only used for a person who leads an untarnished life, but in this verse, it is used for one who receives forgiveness, because God does not count a truly repentant person’s sin against him.2
A gospel song called “Love Covered My Sin” expresses this kind of sin covering. Here is a selection from the lyrics.3
I went out on my own and lost everything,
But the shame of where I had been.
I came back to my Father, fell into His embrace.
As He held me close, I knew that was when
Love covered my sin,
Giving me grace to start over again.
He ran to meet me, chose not to condemn,
That’s when Love covered my sin.
Likewise, we are expected to do the same with those whom we interact. This forgiving love will cause believers to ‘cover’ (conceal, hide) other people’s sins rather than expose them.4 Basically it is saying that love allows you to overlook, forgive, and forget the sins of others.
This is the same meaning as conveyed in the Lord’s Prayer, when it says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). We are asking God to forgive us of shortcomings, failures in duty to God, the wrongs we have done, and our faults (the debts), just as we forgive those offending, those who have failed their duty towards us, and those that did wrong to us (the debtors).5
Most Episcopal and Catholic congregations use a different version of ‘debts and debtors’ by saying, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”6 There are also some Bible versions that state this line differently: “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (NLT), “Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us” (CJB), and a few others. They are all expressing the same idea.
We are to overlook minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And if a sin is a bit more than minor, we are required to speak up, if that sin is hurting them, others, or us, but we need to do this in private (Matthew 18:15). Generally, all of those are included in the “multitude of sins.”
Multitude means most, but not all, so there are some sins that aren’t covered by love. We are instructed to distance ourselves from those who claim themselves as Christians, but live depraved, shameful, unethical, and destructive lives (1 Corinthians 5:11) and those who participate in the works of evil, wickedness, and darkness (Ephesians 5:11).7
At some time or other, we all fail one another. James, brother of Jesus, wrote: “For all of us make mistakes” (James 3:2). And we know we are instructed to forgive one another as Jesus, himself, said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own” (Matthew 7:1–3, NLT).8
So it is unnecessary and even unadvisable to bring-up each and every offense in any relationship. This advice will work wonders in maintaining business or social interactions, friendships, and even love interests. It is, after all, what God expects.
Copyright © 2018, Dr. Ray Hermann
(Leave any comment at end, after References/Notes.)
References & Notes
1. Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2. Walvoord, John F. (Ed.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (USA: Victor Books, 1983), Psalm 32:1-2, commentary by Allen P. Ross.
3. Anderson, Doug, (recording artist), “Love Covered My Sin,” (Album title: Drive, Stowtown Records, 2014), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKMlk8Vygho (AUDIO)
Note: Song written by Wayne Haun, Val Dacus, Randall Garland; pub. by Psalmsinger Music.
4. Horton, Stanley M. (Ed.), The New Testament Study Bible: Hebrews – Jude, (Springfield, MO: World Library Press, Inc., 1986), vol. 9, p. 301, verse-by-verse commentary by Robert C. Cunningham.
5. Horton, Stanley M. (Ed.), The New Testament Study Bible: Matthew, (Springfield, MO: World Library Press, Inc., 1986), vol. 2, p. 111, verse-by-verse commentary.
6. Lord’s Prayer,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 27 March 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_Prayer#cite_note-18
7. Vernick, Leslie, “Does Love Cover a Multitude of Sins?” (Association of Biblical Counselors, June 5, 2012), https://christiancounseling.com/blog/uncategorized/does-love-cover-a-multitude-of-sins/