This blog continues my translation and study of the First Letter of Peter
1 Peter 4: 8
The end of everything is near, so keep sane and sober for prayers. Above all, keep your love for one another well-exercised because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to each other without grudging, and as each one of you has received a special ability, serve each other with it, as good managers of God’s variegated grace: the one who speaks, as speaking the words of God; the one who serves, as using the strength which God supplies lavishly, so that in everything God may be honoured through Jesus Messiah, whose is the honour and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen
How surely the author states that the end of everything is near! How could you ever be sure of a thing like that? And yes, because we’re still here, we can tell he was wrong, can’t we? Well, yes indeed, if we only note that the imminent return of Jesus to the earth, to put an end to everything that was not of his kingdom, was a standard conviction of the early assemblies of Jesus. But if I have listened to Greta Thunberg, or noted carefully the wrinkled skin of my neck, I may realise that what the author wrote is always true: human beings are always about to destroy everything, and fortunately we come to our individual ends quite quickly. The thing is, as the author says, not to be thrown by this fact, but to stay sane and sober, so that we can pray for what matters.
And the author tells us what matters in the face of human destructiveness and the lapse of time: lovingkindness, hospitality, and the good use of our gifts in service, in other words, the love of the living community that covers a multitude of sins. Not like a lick of paint covers a rusting gate, which is mere concealment, but like the new topsoil in the garden covers the old so that something may grow. We can pray for that.
LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS
Each of us, says the author, has received a “charism” , a gifted ability which is an expression of our real identity, to be used for others and confirmed in their service of us. None of us, as John Donne knew, is an island entire of itself, each one part of the continent, part of the main. The knowledge of community as fundamental to the being of persons, is one of the great gifts of Judaeo- Christian faith. And God is adequate to the need of human community for different charisms that complement each other, providing these out of his/her “variegated” grace. God’s grace, in creation, Jesus, and the Spirit, is not one stream of supernatural stuff, but the sharing of God’s infinitely varied goodness.
It is by this shared living (Greek: koinonia) that the assemblies of Jesus honoured God and contributed something new and hopeful to human society.