The word of the day is “covers.” Members of the Body of Christ are at different stages of their “growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). If St. Paul could say, “I have not attained [my goal] or am already perfect” (Philippians 3:12), who of us could claim to be without fault? But when it comes to our relationships in the church, our imperfections are bound to affect others. Therefore, the members of the Body of Christ must have forbearance if the body is not to be torn apart with our frustrations with one another. To this end, in the reading of 1 Peter 4:1-11, the apostle writes, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (vs. 8).
The Meaning of “Fervent Love”
James’ wisdom comes from the book of Proverbs: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (OAB Proverbs 10:12). The apostle adds to this insight the teaching that our love for one another should be “fervent.” It should be active and vigorous so that our irritation with the faults and failings of others does not end in bitterness and conflict.
Understanding the Greek word for “fervent” offers another understanding of how we should put up with the flaws of our fellow members. The term is derived from the idea of “stretching.” The thought is that to be “fervent,” our love should not be slack as a rope coiled up on the deck of a boat. But the love that the apostle prescribes should be stretched out taut as it is when it holds the boat’s anchor fast. The point is that loving others despite their faults is not easy. It requires effort. It must strive to “bear with” the failings of others. That is, it must be willing to carry those weaknesses as emotional and spiritual burdens.
The apostle uses the metaphor that such love “covers” the failings of others. The Greek word can even mean “hide” (Strong’s 2572, 127). We might say that intense love overlooks the shortcomings of others.
Forbearing and Forgiving With Fervent Love
Closing our eyes to the weaknesses of fellow Christians is different than forgiving them. Paul says that we should both forbear and forgive. He writes in Colossians, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
In this passage, the word “forbearing” one another means “tolerating” them, that is, passing over their faults [i] (Strong’s #430, 26). On the other hand, forgiveness is the pardon of the wrongs done against us. Forbearance overlooks the faults and failings of others and prevents impatience, condescension, and frustration of the strong against the weak. Forgiveness heals the offenses that we commit against each other. It prevents resentment, retaliation, and ill will and promotes reconciliation. Both actions working together ensure that the members of the Body of Christ worship, live, and serve the Lord in harmony as they encourage and support each other in their walk with the Lord.
St. Porphyrios radiates the spirit of forbearance when he writes: “Let us scatter our love unselfishly to all, without regard to the way they act toward us. When the grace of God enters us, we will not be concerned about whether they love us or not or whether they speak to us politely or not. We will feel the need to love all people. It’s egotism on our part to wish for others to speak to us politely. If they don’t, we shouldn’t be upset. Our aim should be to love them and pray for them with all our soul…
If your brother is annoying you and wearying you, you should think: “Now I’ve got a pain in my arm or leg and I’ll need to tend to it with all my love…You come to the knowledge of truth when you love with the love of Christ. Then you no longer ask to be loved. You give your love… [Remember] that as Scripture says, “God wishes all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Cor. 12:21) (Porphyrios 2005, 181-82)
 For God, it means suspending judgment until a later time (Strong’s #430,26). But this meaning does not apply to our “bearing with” the faults and failings of our fellow members.
Works Cited: Porphyrios, St. 2005. Wounded by Love: the Life and the Wisdom of Saint Porphyrios. Translated by John Raffan. Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, Publisher