Above all, love each other deeply

What does Biblical community look like?  The Holy Spirit through Peter gives us a picture of it in 1 Peter 4, starting in verse 8.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

When Peter writes ‘Above all, ‘ in a sense, he is saying, most importantly, of supreme importance.  Love each other deeply.

One person has said this, “Love is capable of being commanded because it is not primarily an emotion but a decision of the will leading to action.”

Love is an action that must be expressed by followers of Christ.  We are not to live for ourselves, but live to love God and love others.  We are commanded by Jesus to love our enemies, but we can’t learn to love our enemies, if we don’t first learn and grow to love those closest to us in the family of God.

Love covers over a multitude of sins.  And if you’re in Christ, if you’ve experienced the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God, you know what it means to have love cover over your sin.  But we are not simply loved for our benefit.  We are loved by God so that we might love others in the same way.

God forgives the sinner who comes to Him in repentance and faith, but then He demands that we then turn around and show the same forgiving spirit to those around us, starting with those in the family of God.

Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

One who is aware that they have been forgiven of much, will be quick to extend that same kind of forgiveness to others.  The one who falsely thinks they have earned the love and forgiveness of God, will then expect the people around them who have wronged them to have to earn or work for forgiveness as well.

God’s people should be the most gracious people on the planet, because they are the ones who are fully aware of just how much they have been forgiven of.  Our love needs to be the kind of love that covers each other’s sins.  The love that then enables our fellowship.  That removes the hostility, that removes the conflict.  That says, I know I’ve wronged you, and you’ve wronged me, but may our relationship not be defined by the sin, but rather by the love of God, which covers a multitude of sins.

May I remind you that fellow Christians will sin against you.  I have been sinned against by brothers and sisters in the family of God.  For instance, people who I thought cared for me, but rather gossiped about me.  I have also sinned against others in the family of God in various ways.  In those moments, and in those relationships, we can either let the sin define us, or let the Gospel define us.  The Gospel which says that love covers a multitude of sins.

If we are to love one another deeply, then we will not put the focus on how we have been hurt or how we have hurt others, but rather on the love that is to cover the sin.  As we pursue humility in Christ, we will recognize that we are not just the ones who have been wronged, but we have wronged others.  And so we will be quick to forgive and extend grace.  We will not allow the sin or the hurt to lead us to bitterness, gossip or hate, but we will cover it.  And we will cover it with love.

Peter goes on in verse 9.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 

If we love one another deeply, hospitality will be one result of that love.  We will be generous to guests in our home.  We will open our homes, we will use our kitchen tables and living rooms for God’s purposes, and not just our own.

And we will do this without grumbling.  Grumbling means murmuring or secret displeasure.  It is under your breath or in your mind stuff.  It is possible to be generous on the outside but grumbling on the inside, correct?  Maybe we grumble because we have to fix a meal, or because we have to pick up the house a bit, or because we need to make the time for it.  Or maybe…we grumble not about logistical stuff, but because of the people who are coming.

In this letter, Peter refers to us as aliens or stangers in this world.  But in the family of God, there are to be no strangers.  So in a world that is sometimes hostile to our faith, or in a world where we do experience trouble, we need each other.  We need to gather together in homes, over meals, in living rooms, and in yards.

Crosspoint, I pray that in the coming year, we’d take significant steps forward in the hospitality that we show toward one another, and toward those we are driven to reach.

We live to serve and love others, and that is what Peter continues to reinforce in verses 10-11.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

We serve others with the spiritual gifts that God has given to us.  And if you’re in Christ, you’ve been gifted.  You’ve got abilities, spiritual gifts, experiences, and passions that God wants you to use to serve others.  We are managers of the gifts that God has given to us.  We are called to be good stewards of those gifts, and use them not for our glory, but for God’s.

I love to see how this is happening around Crosspoint.  I see it often behind the scenes, of people using their gifts to serve others.  And they are doing it, as Peter says, so that God may be praised, not themselves.

The church is most effective when the body of Christ is ministering to the body of Christ.  When people are engaged in consistent, mutual, Biblical community with one another.  Community that loves one another and lavishly extends forgiveness to one another.  Community that gathers together not just on Sunday mornings, but in homes.  Community that extends hospitality not just to the brother or sister, but to the stranger.  Community that serves as a witness of God’s love to the world.

May the Lord enable us by His power and grace to live out this type of Biblical community.