1 Peter 4:8: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (NKJV)
Interesting word here, fervent. From the Greek word, ektenes (ek-ten-ace’), strained, stretched, metaphorically, fervent. Now, why would Peter use such a word? Well, if you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (as I do), then you realize that the Holy Spirit chose this word for Peter to write. In context, Peter is writing about the soon return of Jesus. You see, the early Christians expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. Just because He didn’t does not invalidate His promise to do so, because Jesus has expected every generation of believers to expect His return. We’ve got His word on it: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3, NKJV). So Peter continues in chapter 4, instructing us as to how we should behave as believers until the Lord comes: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.'”
Truth is, some people stretch and strain our ability to love them. Face it, some of us are difficult to love, even on our “best” days. So, God has given us His Spirit, His power and strength, to love each other. And still we are to strain and stretch to love each other.
Now, please do not misunderstand me. There are cases where love demands justice. Those who abuse, who injure, who hurt, who take advantage of their position resulting in harm to one another, should be brought to justice. After all, God is a God of love and justice.
Meantime, while we are here awaiting the return of Jesus (according to His promise), we are to love the difficult, the challenging, and yes, even our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NKJV). That word “perfect” is the Greek word, teleios (tel’-i-os), and is defined as “complete” (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.) and is translated in the KJV, of full age, perfect. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). (Sorry, got to add in the legal stuff).
Teleios describes the result the Holy Spirit seeks in our lives, maturity. I’ll be the first to admit that often my love for others is stretched to the breaking point. I have not reached maturity. But I want to. And I believe that is the point. To love each other, to love our enemies, we need first to realize we can’t; then, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to mature us to the point of being able to do so. Don’t get discouraged. I’ve been a Christian 38 years and I’m not there; but I’m not giving up on God’s work in my life either.
So, while we wait for Jesus to return, we need to learn to love one another with a “fervent” love. Guess you’ll have to put up with me a little while longer.
Grace and peace…