What does 1 Peter 4:8 mean?
ESV: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
NIV: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
NASB: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
CSB: Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
NLT: Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
KJV: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
NKJV: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
Verse Commentary:
For the second time in this letter (1 Peter 1:22), Peter commands Christians to work hard at loving each other. The Greek word translated as "deeply," "earnestly," or "fervently" is ektenē, used to describe the muscles of an athlete straining to win a race. Peter writes that Christians should do this "above all." A follower of Christ must make demonstrating the love of Jesus to others his or her first priority. This is always a requirement, but especially crucial during seasons of suffering.

Loving each other is also a proper response to the realization that the end of all things is near, as mentioned in the prior verse. Knowing that the Day of the Lord could come at any time should cause believers to double down on our commitment to each other.

Finally, loving each other in this way covers a multitude of sins. We need to be careful with this statement. This doesn't mean that our acts of love for each other can earn God's forgiveness. Nor does Peter mean to imply that we are paying our sins off through good works. That would contradict what Peter and other New Testament writers clearly teach: that our sins are paid for by Christ's death on the cross, and forgiveness for sin comes only through trusting in Him.

Rather, the idea that our love for each other covers a multitude of sins relates to our imperfection. Christians are not yet sinless. We are not perfect. We have set the course of our lives away from sin, but we still fail to obey sometimes. We make mistakes, even when we mean well. Love for each other includes forgiving each other, overlooking past hurts, and building each other up when we fall. It is difficult for sin and resentment to flourish in a community rich in Christ-like love.
Verse Context:
1 Peter 4:1–11 urges Christians to take on Jesus’ attitude toward suffering. We should see it as an expected part of fulfilling God’s purpose for us on earth. Those who willingly endure suffering for Christ set the course of their lives away from mind-numbing sins. This is true even when those who still commit those sins bad-mouth them. We must stay alert so that we can pray in these end times. We must keep loving each other, using God’s gifts to serve each other with God’s power in and through us, so all the glory goes to Him.
Chapter Summary:
Peter continues to describe how Christians should respond when faced with persecution: Take on Christ’s attitude, and expect God’s purpose for your life to include suffering. Set the course of your life away from mind-numbing pleasure seeking. Be alert so that you can pray effectively in these end times. In fact, rejoice if you share in Christ’s sufferings. God uses suffering to refine the faith of His people, and our present suffering contributes to future glory. If you suffer, keep doing good while trusting your soul to your Creator.
Chapter Context:
Peter’s letter to Christians is about how to live in the world while suffering for faith in Christ. Thus far, he has assured Christians that their future is secure with God. We are His holy people, set apart for His purposes. Christians are called to live in submission to every human authority. Now in chapter 4, Peter writes that we should take Jesus’ attitude toward suffering and expect it in this life, avoiding mind-numbing sin while loving each other earnestly. God may use suffering in this life to refine our faith, but the end of all things is near.
Book Summary:
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ, and to obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now the Christ-followers have the opportunity to follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
Accessed 4/24/2024 5:31:13 PM
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Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.