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“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

     CHARITY, MY BRETHREN: this must be your badge, your mantra, your motto. Above all things, you must have fervent charity among yourselves. It is the bond of perfectness, the tender thread which binds together the Christian’s virtues. If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well, for you can no sooner serve God without charity, than a sparrow may fly without wings. Now, you may be a great theologian, dividing the word of truth aright. You may be an eminent scholar, wondrously elucidating the Scriptures. You may be a magnificent speaker, transfixing multitudes with your eloquence. But if you have not charity, you are nothing. Loveless words are stale words, empty words, powerless words. These words cannot soften hardened hearts, cannot shine light against darkness, cannot give hope to souls in despair. No amount of refinement, discernment, or wisdom can preponderate the absence of charity in a Christian’s heart.

You must bear in mind, however, that this call to charity is no invitation to indifference. The man who refuses to hate in the name of charity, lacks charity as much as the man who does nothing but hate. “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil,” the psalmist admonishes us, and wisely so. We cannot love God without keeping his commandments, and we cannot keep his commandments without hating evil. Indeed, our hatred for wickedness, for iniquity, for falsehood, is in direct proportion to our love for righteousness, for God, and for truth. If we refuse to preach against sin and false doctrines, we do not walk as the children of light, but as the children of apostasy, of tolerance, of compromise. The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments, and since the fear of the Lord is to hate evil, when we cease to hate, we cease to fear God.

No, do not be deceived into supposing charity and truth are incompatible. We cannot have one without the other. Truth, if not tempered by love, becomes malice, bitterness. Love, if not qualified by truth, becomes hypocrisy, apostasy, and tolerance of wickedness. The apostle instructs us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), because it is only by this combination that we may enjoy fellowship with Christ. To love is to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, and to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints is to love.

Yet, you must not be satisfied simply to proclaim the necessity of charity. “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples,” saith Christ, “if ye have love one to another.” We preach, with our lives, far more powerful sermons than we can with our lips, and if we do not abide in the love of God, we are hypocrites for commanding others to do the same. We are to so exude and embody charity, every man who sees us will know we belong to Christ, for we walk in his commandments by his love, and, by his love, walk in his commandments. Therefore, put on charity, my brother, and wear it as your most precious garment.

“for charity shall cover the multitude of sins”

     This is no endorsement of that craven compromise so prized by ecumenicism. Charity does not encourage sin, as the world’s phony “love” so readily does. Charity does not ignore crucial distinctions between true and false doctrine, does not deny incontrovertible differences between right and wrong, does not pretend that light and darkness can be reconciled. I hardly conceive apostasy can cover the multitude of sins, since apostasy is sin itself, and only breeds further sin and error. Surely charity, as the bond of perfectness, cannot promote imperfectness.

Neither does this passage permit you to hide your transgressions, for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his word is not in us. No, this admonition is not so much concerned with your sins as it is with the sins of others. When we exercise charity, we allow the muscles of malice to atrophy, for we are too occupied with love to ponder vices we might otherwise critique. How true it is that a heart consumed with love can overlook even the most scarlet sins, as the heart of God looked beyond our wretchedness to send his only begotten Son to the cross. Such is how charity shall cover the multitude of sins – not by ignoring them, not by defending them, but by loving unconditionally in spite of them. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While men are yet sinners, we must love them.

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