The text in this message is the first phrase in verse 7 in the King James translation concerning love: “Beareth all things.”
Verse 7 is the end of the middle section on the practice of love. It is a conclusion. There is in verse 7 a repetition of some of the earlier characteristics of love that have been described. Verse 7 is in the positive, after a long list of negatives—love does not do this, it does not do that. Now in the positive. There are four verbs here, which are the positive action of love. And they are in the present tense, which means this is the on-going activity of love. Love does not just do these things occasionally or once or twice in the past, but this is how love always behaves.
The most unique feature in verse 7 is the repetition of the phrase in the English: “all things.” In the Greek, that phrase is one word and it is put in the emphatic position so that literally, in the Greek, you read this: “All things, beareth; all things, believeth; all things, hopeth; all things, endureth.” The emphasis falls on that “all things.” What is emphasized is the strength of love.
If I preached on the entire verse 7 in one sermon, that would be the theme of the sermon: The Strength of Love. Love is able to arise above every situation. It bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things. Love sees a bigger picture than just the present, the here and the now, because the one who has true love is a believer. He is loved by God, he loves God. And, loving God, he loves others. He has an eternal hope. He trusts in the sovereignty of God who is over all. He commits everything to God’s care and wisdom. So his love is stronger than any offense, stronger than any enemy, stronger than death. Love is strong. But, in this message, I am not going to speak on the entire verse, just on the first phrase as we look at these characteristics of love carefully. I do that under the theme: Love Is Confidential.
In the English, you have “beareth all things.” The question comes to our mind immediately, How do you get from love bearing all things to love is confidential? So I want to explain that. And I want to do that not just to explain it, but so that we can catch the nuances of meaning here in the Greek word that is used. And, as we catch the nuances of meaning, make application to our own lives. I think the key application is this, that love is confidential.
If you look at the text itself, you see that if we take the translation that the King James has, “beareth all things,” there would be some redundancy, because at the end of the verse it says “endureth all things.” Then at the very beginning of verse 4, “charity suffereth long.” So, three times at least it would say the same thing about love, that it is patient, that it bears, that it endures. But this phrase, as we have it in the original Greek, is really a phrase that comes from the Old Testament. In Proverbs 10:12, “Love covereth all sins.” Especially the first two words: “love covereth,” and then “all.” That is the literal meaning of this phrase here. It is a Greek word that is used only three times in the New Testament, and all three times, in the King James version, it is given the meaning or the idea of bearing or suffering with something. But the root of this word means literally “to cover or to protect.” That is the idea. There you see why I said Proverbs 10:12 is the idea here: love covers all things. Some translations even have it this way, that it covers all things or that it always protects. The noun form for the word here is literally a roof. That is the idea. What does a roof do? It covers and it protects. How does it cover, how does it protect? It does that by bearing a load. Think of snow or rain or even a falling tree. What does a roof do? It bears a burden. And as it bears that burden, it protects and it covers. And that is the picture here: love covers.
That leads us to the theme of the text that I have given here, that love is confidential. This is what love does. Love protects others by keeping secret those things that would hurt them and hurt their reputation. Love covers or casts a blanket over the sins and faults of others that, if publicized, would shame them. So love is confidential. Love is silent. And in its silence, its privacy, it protects the name of another.
You remember Noah, after the Flood? He became drunken and he lay on the floor naked. And one of his sons, Ham, saw that, and he made fun of his Dad. But the other two, Shem and Japheth, were disgusted with Ham’s behavior. They took a blanket, and, holding it behind them, they walked backwards towards their father and threw the blanket over their father’s nakedness and covered his shame. Why did they do that? They did that because they loved their father. So they covered his shame. That is a picture of how we ought to love one another. Love covers, love is confidential. I Peter 4:8: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Notice how that fits with what I Corinthians says about love and the pre-eminence of love—”have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” In charity, we keep silent about the sins of others and, doing that, we love them and we protect their name.
To be loved like this is to be loved indeed. To have a friend that loves you like this is to have a true friend. A person who loves you this way does not gossip. It has been said that if you really want to know what a person is like, you listen to what he says, and you listen especially to what he says about other people. The person who parades all the faults of others and broadcasts them is a person who hates, not a person who loves. A true friend does not gossip. That is because, in the second place, a true friend is a forgiving and a patient person. He is forgiving, that is, he does not keep a record of the wrongs of the other. If you have wronged him and he has forgiven you, he will bear it and not blab it. Forgiveness to him means that things are covered up, things are forgotten, they are in the past.
Such a friend is also patient. When he is wronged, he has a long fuse. He does not take things personally. He is not looking for ways to get back at others. But he commits things to God’s providence. He is forgiving, he is patient. What a blessing to have a friend who loves this way. A person who loves this way can be trusted. He is one with whom others feel safe as a friend. People feel free to share with a friend like that because she will keep confidence. If you share a personal sin or failure with her, she is going to listen, she is going to help, she is going to encourage, she is going to pray with you, but she is not going to get on the phone the moment she is out of your presence and text people and call people and share with them. If this friend loves you this way and catches you red-handed and you are sorry, he is not going to tell others. He is going to protect your name because love covers a multitude.
This kind of friend, a friend who loves this way, is loyal. He does not give up on you. Here you have the idea of the King James: “bears all thing.” He remains your friend. He loves you despite what he knows about you or despite how you have hurt him. When he forgives you, in that forgiveness you experience a warmth and a love in which he wants you to overcome the fears that you have in the relationship. He sticks with you in the failings. He is there for you. He has your back because he protects you. Love bears all things. Love covers. It protects. It is confidential because it cares about the name and the character and the reputation of others. It understands Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” Now think about that in connection with love: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,” though I make someone rich with great riches and yet do not love him, ruined his name, I am nothing.
Now, when it comes to love and the characteristics and the behavior of love, I think it is fair for us to say in this message that here is an area where we fail most often. Here we really, as it were, get a glimpse into the human heart and the depravity of human nature. As one commentator put it: Man’s depravity causes him to rejoice in the depravity of others. Whether we do that because we hate others or because we want to look better than others, it is true. This is what our depraved nature does. We delight in the failures of others. This is what makes headlines. This is what sells magazines. This is the stuff that feeds Talk Radio and Facebook newsfeeds. We have an interest in them. We delight in the depravity of others. And that is a revelation of our own depravity.
You see it in the behavior of young children. What do they love to do? “Mom, he said…she did.” They love to tattle. Adults are no better. There is a sinister delight in publishing the failures of others. The most appealing thing to us is gossip.
Now, there are specific situations where this word has a special application, where we need this kind of love—a love that covers, that protects, that is confidential.
I think the first, and most obvious one, is in marriage. Can your spouse trust you to protect his or her name? In marriage we see things close up. We get to know about a history, a past. We have to deal with the same sinful faults and idiosyncrasies day after day. Can your spouse be confident that you will deal with him or her one on one—between you and him, or you and her, alone—and that you will not go off to coffee and share it with all your friends or complain of it to all your buddies or make fun of it with the children? If you are a man or woman who truly loves your spouse, you will speak only that which lifts them up in the esteem of others. Love protects.
In marriage, if you do not have a love that covers a multitude of sins, if instead you keep a record of wrongs and broadcast those to others, not only do you erode the trust of your spouse, but in the end, all those pent-up frustrations will explode into a conflict and things will be said that you cannot take back and the process of healing will be painful and long.
Husbands, do you need to repent of not covering, not protecting your wife because you are focused on her sins and weaknesses, you are always finding fault, and then you are telling others or making fun of her? Wives, do you need to repent of the sin of ruining, destroying your husband’s reputation out of a lack of respect for him? Love protects. And if you do need that repentance, then confess your faults one to another so that there may be forgiveness and there may be healing.
The second situation, and you find it in the Scriptures, is the relationship between parents and children. Again, in the home there needs to be a love that covers a multitude of sins in both directions. I referred already to the example of Noah’s sons, who covered their father’s nakedness. You can think of other examples in Scripture—negative ones like Absalom. What did Absalom do? He turned the hearts of the people against his father David by tearing down his father’s reputation. That was shameful behavior. That was hateful behavior. And it does not matter if you are grown up and you have left the home, what you know about your parents is still not for public exposure. There are some things that are better not said because they do not edify. Love forgives. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way, that we bear with their weaknesses and infirmities. That is respect for your parents.
But that goes the other way, too. Sometimes a parent will become so disheartened and exasperated with a child that, if you listen to the parent talk about that child, particularly perhaps a teenager or young adult child that has shown rebellion, you listen to that parent and find that he does not have a single good thing to say about her. And you wonder, does he love her? Does she love him? Always tearing him down. What does that do? There is no healing. It only creates a deeper rift. As we raise our children, particularly those who are becoming adults, we have to love them. That includes what we say about his or her name. We need to protect them. We need to bear with them. We need to forgive them. We need to, as it were, give them space to mature and forgive them for their faults in their maturing years. Love covers, protects.
A third situation that comes to mind is all our external relationships, our connections outside of the home. In work (bosses and employers), in school (teachers), in the neighborhood (neighbors), in society (politicians, police officers). How much talk goes on in our home about others that is not loving, that tears down their name, that builds disrespect in our children, that is unwilling to bear all things. I think the responsibility here falls especially upon parents and the environment that they set in the home. Sometimes we justify this kind of tearing-down talk by saying, Well, we need to teach our children to be discerning. Yes, we need to teach our children to be discerning. But are you, at the same time, teaching them Christian character, love, respect, patience, trust in God? These are things that are more important than discernment. This is a discerning of heart issues, is it not? They are character issues. Getting back to what the apostle says earlier in the chapter, “though I have all knowledge and understand all mysteries, but if I do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
A fourth situation is the relationships that we have in the church. That is really what Paul is aiming at here, especially as he writes to Corinth. He writes about division in Corinth. And he is saying to them, You need to have a love that protects, that is confidential. In I Peter 4:8, that parallel verse: “Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,” the apostle is writing to the church. He is saying, This is what you need among yourselves, first of all, a fervent charity that covers a multitude of sins, this is what we need in the church.
That does not mean that we just push everything under the rug. The church that does that, that is so tolerant that there is no confrontation and no admonition and no discipline in the church, is not loving. And soon it will trip over itself. Love admonishes. Love even risks friendships in admonition. But there is a difference between admonition and gossip. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Because admonition is love, gossip is hatred. So, if there is a member in the church, or maybe an officebearer in the church, who in your presence is showing indiscretion or has spoken foolishly, maybe slanderously, maybe they have been angry unnecessarily, then, by all means, speak to him. Speak humbly and imploringly and admonish him and pray to God that he will take such meek admonition. But do not now take it and say, Did you hear what he said? Did you see how angry he was? Did you hear what she did? That is not loving. Talebearing only exacerbates situations. Where no wood is, the fire goes out. James says, “A little flame kindles a wild fire.” If you want to destroy the church, if you want to destroy peace in the church, this is the way to do it, is it not? Satan’s name is the Devil, or Slanderer. And this is what he wants, the destruction of the church. He wants people to slander and divide and parade and exaggerate the faults of the members. Love covers, love is confidential.
In the church we live with redeemed people. We live with those who are called saints, yes. But they are not perfect yet. They are sinners. The closer we get to them, the more we will see their faults, the more they will see our faults. We want trust. We want to be able to trust others with the information they know about us. And we want others to trust us. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Now, when we think about this biblical idea of covering, the first thing that should come to our mind is the covering that God has provided for our sins. In the Old Testament tabernacle, behind the vail was the ark. And on top of the ark was the lid called the Mercy Seat. It was the covering or propitiation for sins. Above the Mercy Seat was the Shekina cloud, which was a shining, visible symbol of the presence of the holy God. Below the Mercy Seat was the law, with its demands and its condemnation of us as sinners. Once a year, on the Mercy Seat, the High Priest came and he sprinkled the blood of sacrifices, the blood of atonement. What that symbolized was the turning away of the wrath of God, the covering of the condemnation of the law, the mercy of God. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities, but He has covered all our iniquities.
That covering in the Old Testament simply prefigured the perfect and the final covering for sin accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross with His propitiatory, bloody sacrifice. And in that, God covers our sins and God bears our sins. Christ bears them, and then that covers us from the weight of the wrath of God. Love covers a multitude of sins. And God remembers them no more. He buries them in the depths of the sea. He casts them behind His back. That is the love of God. His love is a covering kind of love. Everyone He loves, He covers all their sins. As He covered the shame of Adam and Eve, so He covers us with the blood of Jesus Christ, and He clothes us with the white robes of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Now, if God has so loved us, we ought also to love one another. Everyone that we love we will conceal, we will be confidential, we will protect. Let us remember what God has done. Let us be thankful for it and, in gratitude, love one another.