Way back in the 1960s the Beatles sang, “All you need is love.” This sentiment became the anthem of that generation, although few truly understood the full implications of this statement. Most who adopted this philosophy applied it in a purely humanistic manner. Over time this philosophy has become part of the perverse nature of our culture in which every kind of wickedness must be tolerated, because, we are told, this is how we show love. Even professed believers have fallen into this mistaken point of view, as evidenced by the churches who are now adjusting their belief systems to allow for behaviors that the scriptures clearly condemn.
While we may balk at the current application of “love thy neighbor” as practiced by many, we may feel at a loss to offer a truly biblical response. The scriptures do, in fact, teach that all we need is love. However, love, as defined in the scriptures, is far different from the world’s definition. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37). He added in v. 39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But He did not leave us to our own devices to define what love is.
In Jn. 14:15 the Lord said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” In v. 23 He added these words: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” This divine definition of love helps us to understand why loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind is the greatest commandment. If we truly love God, we will do everything that He commands us in His word, and we will be acceptable to Him.
Jesus said that if we love Him and keep His word, then God the Father will love us and make His abode with us. Here is the divine aspect of what love is. Paul spoke of it in Rom. 5:8, where he said, “But God commends His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God showed His love for us by sending His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. The blood of Christ covers our sins when we are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
When Peter wrote his first letter, he spoke of the importance of love in our walk as Christians. In 1 Pet. 4:8 he said, “Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” On the surface this may seem very much like the modern definition of love, but it is far from it. We know this because the Lord’s definition of love contradicts the modern practice. We know this also, because the Lord’s half-brother, James, also helped define it for us. In Jas. 5: 19, 20 James said, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
Peter said love covers a multitude of sins, and James says turning a sinner from his error covers a multitude of sins. When we understand Peter and James in the light of what the Lord said about love, we recognize that love covers our sins by turning us away from our sins and leading us to obey God’s will. This, after all, is why God sent His Son, so that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Love covers a multitude of sins, not by ignoring sin, but by turning us from sin to obey the gospel. Love continues to cover a multitude of sins as Christians help each other stay on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Therefore, let us “keep fervent in our love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”