Q: The first epistle of Peter talks about how love covers a multitude of sins. I have been hurt by people in the past and struggle with forgiveness because there is no acknowledgement on their part that they have offended me. I am confused and put off by some who call themselves Christians but who are walking in sin that I know is contrary to God’s Word. I know they are wrong, but feel that I am being critical towards them. I don’t know how to properly reconcile these issues. Could you give me any insight about this matter?
A: There is much confusion about this subject. Sadly many churches and Christians fail to practice the church disciplines clearly set down in the Bible as to this subject, thereby, maintaining a clear separation from the world. Because the separation is not there, it causes confusion as to how Christians are to handle the different matters of offenses, trespasses, and iniquity. The reason this separation is missing is because much of the world’s attitude has found its way into the church and there is no real distinction between the holy and the profane. As a result, leaven is taking root and growing as church disciplines are being ignored, while that which is offensive to God is being conveniently justified away while being lumped under some perverted idea of love.
If you read 1 Peter 4:8 in context, it is in reference to our past life. Peter is talking about offenses that hurt the old man or our pride. Most people are not even aware that they have walked over or hurt our pride. We need to recognize that godly love will not give audience or bow down to such pride. Pride falls under the category of the sin of iniquity and it will produce jealousy, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Ultimately, such iniquity will manifest itself in a critical spirit towards those who have committed the offense.
Romans 12:9-10 gives us a definition of godly love that has the power to cover personal offenses by applying it in a right attitude. We apply love by preferring others over ourselves. This preference allows us to humble ourselves and choose the way of forgiveness by letting go of our rights to hold or maintain such offenses. It also gives us the freedom to properly consider in what way we can best serve, encourage, and minister to those who have offended us, providing an avenue of lasting reconciliation.
The problem today is that most people only think in terms of offenses committed against their pride and not against God. They judge others on the basis of how such individuals make them feel about themselves (uncomfortable, jealous, embarrassed, etc.) rather than if a person’s relationship has been broken between him or her and God because of moral trespasses and iniquity. As long as we feel okay about someone, it does not matter what kind of offenses he or she has done against God or others. We can overlook such individual’s destructive offenses towards others and call it love that covers sins (because we are not the one offended), and we can ignore trespasses against God, and incorrectly accredit it to His love. Remember, we have a ministry of reconciliation, pointing people back to a right relationship with God, not to help someone into hell in the name of love (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
As far as being judgmental towards sin, if God has declared it as wrong, you do not need to pass judgment on it because God has already deemed it as being so. Jesus instructs us to judge righteously (Matthew 7:24). This simply means we will line up to His Word and agree with Him about a matter. We are instructed to reprove all works of darkness (Ephesians 4:11) If a brother is erring or doing wrong against us in such a way as to put his or her soul in danger, the Bible is clear that if such a person fails to see the error of his or her ways, we must give three warnings in the attitude of meekness: person to person, with a witness, and then before the church. If he or she fails to repent, we are to completely separate from that person as an example to others and a means to bring a person to repentance in order to restore him or her back into fellowship. (See Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:2-9; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; James 5:20.)
It is important to keep in mind, we must be spirit-led and in a right spirit before ever confronting another brother who is in sin, but if we fail to confront sin, not only are we showing a gross lack of love for the person’s soul, but we are putting ourselves in danger of coming into agreement with the unholy and losing our discernment, distinction, testimony, and sliding into a comatose state of mediocrity.
Today much of the church in America has succumbed to a comatose state because sin is not properly confronted and dealt with. As a result, the church has become an unholy thing in which the Holy Spirit cannot find holy ground to land on. Without the presence of the Spirit there is no conviction of sin (because the church is not prepared to deal with it anyway), no discernment (because it is not properly exercised and is discouraged because of the fear of being labeled judgmental), no distinction (New Agers also love people into hell with their good intentions and deeds), no authority (testimonies lack any real growth, power, and passion), and there is no life to bring any real contrast as to how far away people are from the mark. Sadly, the church blames the absence of the Spirit, not on the fact that the ground must be unholy, but because many are not expecting the Spirit to land. What many fail to realize is that the latter is true because the first condition is present.
I hope this will give you a balanced understanding of this subject.