Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before; but she acted as if she had never heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Barton’s reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”

The Apostle Peter assumes the need for such an attitude in the church when he writes: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pt 4:8) In other words, one of the biblical ways to deal with sin or someone’s offense against you is simply to forget it. To cover sin with love means you forgive without even being asked.

Covering sin, as Peter describes it, is not condoning or excusing it. It is certainly not filing it away for later. The options he offers are 1) to let love cover and forget about it or 2) to seek reconciliation through confrontation. There is no “do nothing about it but stay mad.” If you can’t truly let it go and let love cover it, you have to confront it. But if you can, you should cover it with love.

Covering sin with love is not passive. It’s not something that happens by accident. It looks passive on the outside because you act as though nothing has occurred. But deep inside, you are engaged in an active process of refusing to hold a grudge or refusing to recall an offense, just like Clara Barton.

Why is this so important in the Christian community? Because offenses have a way of escalating, spiraling downward. What was originally a relatively small thing can get blown out of proportion by both people involved. But when you simply ignore the unkind act or thoughtless word, you bring the cycle of evil to an end and the issue dies.

Don’t miss Peter’s reason for covering it: LOVE. Not convenience. Not fear of confrontation. Not apathy. Fervent love. Costly love. Peter says it emphatically: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” The phrase “above all” is significant. Apparently, Peter believes that a church can lack many virtues, but without sin-covering love, that church might not survive.