Camouflage is one of nature’s passive defenses. Through the use of color and form, animals and insects blend into their environment. There are so many examples; it is difficult to choose just one. In a way, those forms and colors create a shield covering what is underneath. Although it is rarely considered, forgiveness creates a similar kind of shield or cover.
In the wisdom of Proverbs, we read, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.” (Proverbs 10:12, NASB95) Hatred requires unforgiveness. There is no way around that formula. Whenever we hate someone, unforgiveness is right there, stoking the fire. Every little offense they commit adds more fuel. But forgiveness smothers the fire of our hatred.
Peter also riffed on that bit of wisdom. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NASB95) Peter’s words are filled with action, a constant leaning into forgiveness. Fervent keeping requires continual forgiveness.
If we’re honest, people offend us. Perhaps in their habits, the way they talk or don’t talk, their life choices, perhaps the causes they adopt, their political philosophy, or theological perspectives. And to be blunt, also in their sin. In response, we can actively hate, passively reject, or lovingly forgive. Does forgiving mean they will stop being offensive? In no way. But love covers their sin and offenses.
Here we must employ some practical wisdom. There are times for love to cover and shield the offenses of others. And there are times to address the offenses of others in a way that stirs relationship and not hatred. Knowing which to choose is a matter for prayer and dealing first with the log in our own eye.
I believe that Jesus had this idea of love covering a multitude of sins when He talked with Peter about forgiveness. “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NASB95) When you really think about it, the way of following Jesus, of living a 70×7 life, means walking in forgiveness towards each other.
There’s a simple formula which we’ll discuss in greater depth in our next forgiveness article. That formula goes something like this – hatred tears down; love builds up. Behind that is the calculation that unforgiveness stokes the fire of hatred and destruction, forgiveness stokes the fires of love and building up one another.
It may seem that this shield born of love is merely turning a blind eye and letting everything go. That’s not what it means. We are not covering or shielding ourselves, but the other person. We are recognizing what is offensive and sinful but choosing to walk in forgiveness. It is saying to ourselves, “yes, that hurt, but I forgive them” not just once or twice but 70×7. You could say that our forgiveness camouflages (or covers) their offense and sin so we can really see them as God does.