My daughter has a habit of collecting things. However most of her collecting fondness is directed towards rocks. Some colorful, some smooth, big and small. Even the extremely regular or somewhat unexceptional ones she’s drawn to for whatever reason. She’ll fill her coat pockets or pass them off to me for safe keeping in the endless depths of my purse. Just one of the reasons mom’s tend to have big, heavy purses.
But she’ll gather her rocks together. She loves them.
At times I find this habit a bit of a nuisance, particularly when my hands are full with jackets, or back packs, or books and then I’m handed a somewhat useless rock that belongs on the ground – yet it’s absolutely necessary for her to keep it.
*sigh – “fine” I say.
However when her rocks are gathered together, each individual and unique I can see the appeal. There’s something charming about it.
When some things are gathered together in a beautiful collection, it’s a delight.
For the past few months I’ve been soaking myself in the book of 1 Peter. A book I’ve read and studied multiple times before but the Holy Spirit is always faithful to illuminate and open my eyes to new and wonderful depth’s of the heart of God through His Word.
One verse I’ve always loved is chapter 4:8…
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Its nice isn’t it? Love is nice. And this verse is all about it and how it covers and clears up the darkness in this world. What’s not to love about love and by extension this verse? It’s the kind of verse we memorize and crochet on pillows – and we ought to.
And yet it all becomes more fascinating when we discover that Peter is writing these words to Christians in the midst of deep suffering and persecution. He’s giving them hard words and comforting words, and this is a surprisingly hard word. It’s more like a warning. Because he’s reminding these Christians that sin can creep through the cracks when suffering strikes.
Right before this verse about love is a long list of sins we should be avoiding (most of them really obvious) and its a reminder from Peter that sin is present in Christians – even in the middle of hardship. We are very likely to be tempted because the flesh is weak and sins appeal is luring.
Which means when Christians gather, just think of how many sins attend.
Multitudes and multitudes.
When we congregate on Sunday, so do our sins. Big and small, hidden or obvious, smooth and colorful – our sin piles one on top of the other. Cumbersome and excessive.
But there’s an antidote to this ample weight…and that’s love.
Church is a place where imperfect people congregate – where we bump into each other with disagreements, step on toes with harsh words and harden our hearts to difficult people. We are sinner’s on individual journey’s in sanctification.
And that journey can get bumpy.
Yet the church is also a hospital where hurting people get to come be ministered to, edified and equipped for the race God asks us to run. Because we are a community making up the body of Christ on a shared voyage of faith.
Individual and yet communal is the church.
And we commune because of the cross.
When the sins of humanity gathered onto Jesus on the cross…it was sacrificial and powerful love that won the victory.
And this is exactly why Peter implores the church to love each other. Christ love is so compelling we can’t let the burdens of this world numb our love for our brothers and sisters. We must love and care and help lift the load. Sin will tempt us away from affection for the body of Christ but God is calling us to have a default of love.
Because an abundance of sin needs an abundance of love.
Earnest, practiced and intentional…