Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
Some cover-ups are lies and some cover-ups are love. It depends on who’s doing the covering.
Covering with Lies and Covering with Love
When President Richard Nixon and his aides attempted to cover up the offense of the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Complex by Republican Party operatives, they were not seeking love. Why? Because they, the offending party (the Republicans), were trying to cover their own offense against the offended party (the Democrats).
When a guilty party “covers” his own offense, it is a lie. The only love involved is prideful self-love. But when justice and ethics don’t demand that a matter be “repeated” (such as sexual or other kinds of heinous abuse) and the innocent (the offended party or an observing party) “covers” the offense of an offender in order to preserve friendship, it is love — the kind of love that “bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Why We Know of So Few Love-Covered Offenses
Every day we hear stories of offenders who have tried to cover their own offenses with lies. And every day we hear (sometimes from our own lips) people repeating a matter. We call this gossip and it fuels whole media industries. All around us are shattered relationships that exploded in the “repeating.”
But how many examples can you think of where a friendship was preserved because someone did not repeat — gossip about — an offense? Not many, I’ll wager. Why is this so rare?
While it’s true that lovingly covering a matter is rarer in our sinful world than repeating a matter, this is not the only reason we know so few examples of covering. A significant reason is that by definition covering hides others’ offenses from our view and therefore even the covering is concealed from our view. We don’t know about offenses or their covering because loving people haven’t talked about them.
A Gospel-like Love
The kind of love that “covers a multitude of sins” is a costly love (1 Peter 4:8). It is a humble love that “looks not only to [our] own interests but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
The kind of love that “covers a multitude of sins” is a costly love.
This love, even when it is exercised by unbelievers, is a gospel-like love because it is a reflection of the way God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16) to cover our sins (Romans 4:7). God, the offended party, justly covered the penalty of our offenses on the cross so that he could righteously “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) and “remember [our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
And to us, Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
So seek to love like Jesus today. Love in a way that few will ever know about. Cover an offense.