This verse came up twice in emails I received from UBF leaders over the past six months: 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (NIV). My post today is a brief presentation of the undocumented teaching called “covering over sins”.
A quick search finds two more verses in Scripture that mention love covering wrongs and offenses:
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (NIV)
Proverbs 17:9 “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (NIV)
Because these verses do warn about bringing up matters of sin and wrongdoings repeatedly, I will not keep discussing specific sins of other people on this blog. However, I have no regret over revealing various wrongdoings the first time. Scripture does implore us to refrain from repeated regurgitations of the same sins. But Scripture does not implore us to “cover up every sin and never talk about past problems”. I see no evidence that Scripture wants us to prevent sins from being exposed. Nor do I see any evidence in Scripture that I am only allowed to speak in positive terms in regard to God’s servants or toward other people.
UBF has a rather dangerous (in my opinion) and undocumented interpretation of the verses above. When you become a leader in UBF or if you express concern over a leader’s sin or if you even question whether a leader did something wrong, you quickly discover this unwritten teaching called “covering over sin”.
This covering principle is very important to UBF leaders (especially the Korean missionaries). The teaching really should be documented as one of UBF’s major doctrines. The UBF teaching goes beyond what Scripture intended, and teaches that we must always present UBF and God’s servants in a positive light, even if the leaders made serious mistakes. The teaching goes even further, teaching that no one should say anything negative about UBF or leaders in UBF, because “love covers over a multitude of sins”. The teaching also includes a clause that allows a leader to say all kinds of negative things about people who left UBF, or about a Bible student who is disobedient.
In order to get the correct teaching and see through the duplicity of the UBF teaching, we need to “go back to the Bible”. Scripture does indeed call for balance when dealing with sins. Leaders who teach the Bible are indeed worthy of “double honor”. We are directed by Scripture to avoid gossip (Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, 2 Corinthians 12:20). We need to be cautious about repeatedly raising mistakes leaders in the church have made.
At the same time, leaders who sin are to be reproved before everyone with the testimony of two or three witnesses. “17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’ 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” (1 Timothy 5:17-21 NIV)
Scripture clearly implores us to walk in the light. The verses that warn against stirring up conflict do not negate these verses, for example: “6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:6-8 NIV)
I am looking to Proverbs and many other passages in Scripture to find the Lord’s wisdom. I pray that this wisdom may guide and correct me as I work with a few friends, seek and follow the Spirit’s promptings, and embark on a massive project to explain, expose and examine the UBF belief system, both the documented and undocumented teachings.
“1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.
3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 27:1-6 (NIV)
Please read all of Proverbs 27. this is one of my favorite Proverbs passages! Especially verse 14: “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.”