But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity amongst yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7-8 KJV
As I listened to a sermon about getting prepared for the end of times, I was surprised at the emphasis of the message – a message that spoke to my heart. The minister wasn’t telling us where to put our money or to store up food in preparation for hard times. Instead, he told us to prepare our hearts so that we did not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in the end times, during the “latter rains before the harvest.” “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the former and latter rain.” James 5:7 KJV
Because scripture tells us, as believers, to have fervent charity (love) among ourselves, we are not only to forgive anyone who has hurt us, but we are to also cover their offense. That’s the part that stood out to me. I had never heard it said quite like this before. I can’t cover someone’s sin against God, but I can cover someone’s sin against me. In other words, I can not talk about it to others, not spread it around, and not keep bringing it up ten or twenty years later. It also means that I ask God to remove any root of bitterness that is in my heart.
This is radical Christianity in its purest form. It goes completely against the grain of our human nature. We say we have forgiven someone because, as Christians we know that because God has forgiven us, it is what we’re supposed to do. But how many of us find ourselves bringing up the matter to friends and family on more than one occasion? Somehow we rationalize that it’s okay because, after all, don’t we need support and understanding from those who care about us? A little sympathy or prayer?
As a therapist, I’m used to people bringing their problems to me in confidence, but I am doing them a disservice if I don’t lead them in the direction of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness. Empathy and advice from a trusted friend and confidant can be healing and valuable when it doesn’t become a substitute for taking the situation to God and acting in love.
James 5:8-9 KJV tells us, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.”
It is evident in these scriptures that how we treat each other is linked to our preparation for the coming of the Lord. It may seem unfair that the person who has been hurt by another is left with the burden of forgiving and covering that person’s offense. And yet, that is exactly what we are admonished to do.
It is for our own good to forgive and release any root of bitterness before it has time to grow. It doesn’t mean that we delude ourselves into thinking that the other person’s behavior was right. It doesn’t mean that we always stay in the path of a hurtful person. But it does mean that we forgive and even pray for them. I have found that one of the best ways to get rid of resentment is to pray for the person when a negative emotion or thought about them flashes through your mind. And just remember, God can use a negative situation for your good. He is maturing you spiritually and preparing you for what He has in store for your life!