The problem? Proverbs 10:12 is not a prescription to perform but rather a map towards healing accomplished by a higher power. The word “cover” has the meaning to conceal or hide. To conceal or hide sin can only be done (without becoming culpable ourselves) by God. And God being holy and righteous does not hide or overlook sin but rather covers it through substitutionary work of his Son’s death on the cross. So what this verse is really implying is that we must go to, or draw others to God so that we (or they) might find this divine covering found only in Jesus Christ.
Because He alone has the power to cover sin, we are not capable of implementing this action apart from Him. An even clearer picture is seen by looking at a similar verse in 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Loving deeply with God’s love is caring enough to lead others to Christ’s forgiveness where this covering is found. It is the gospel of amazing grace. It’s the place where we are clothed and covered in His righteousness and transformed in the heart. If we haven’t yet been convinced then James 5:20 really drives the point home: “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
Fake love does not inspire true forgiveness
When experiencing bitterness, the only way to rightly appropriate this charge “love covers a multitude of sin” is to run to God. We must never feel compelled to fake-love on the person we are feeling hatred for deep down inside; it is a farce and doomed to fail. They will see through it, and it won’t bring about the divine change God has for both hearts involved (ours or theirs). Therefore, the first order of business is to go before the Lord and meditate on the covering He has purchased for us personally by His blood. Jesus didn’t hate us, even though we deserved to be hated. If we are struggling with bitterness, there is a work in our own hearts that needs to be accomplished, and this takes an intimate refreshing in our own minds of the love we are called to reflect. God alone has the power to break through bitterness and cover sin. We must come broken before Him with our embittered hearts in confession: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Only God has the ability to make our love genuine
Here in this posture both the covering and the power to lead our enemies to the same covering can be found. To seek a truly loving heart that will overcome the bitterness, rather than pretending, brings real healing to the breakdown in relationship. We can stop focusing on trying to fix the problem and simply admit we have a heart gripped in hatred’s dark grasp in need of rescue. As Christians we are notorious for slapping verses on trials like band aides for quick relief, but allowing God, instead, to reveal the true meaning of His word deep into our heart will yield superior results.
Then when God moves upon our minds and reminds us of His love, our refreshed countenance will be a marvelous thing for our enemy to behold. We will be strengthened and enabled to move forward in genuine acts of love that seemed impossible beforehand (like those listed in 1 Corinthians 13). Kindness, patience and prayer will begin to come alive as a map to the Great Physician, becoming both rescuing salve to their heart as well as ours. Here we will discover that not only does love cover a multitude of sins, but bitterness is transformed into a sweet fountain of forgiveness that gently flows as a healing balm.
True forgiveness brings about a divine forgetfulness that stops playing old tapes of wrongs played over and over in the mind.
True forgiveness brings about a letting go of the long standing grudges that make the heart seethe when hearing an enemy’s name.
True forgiveness isn’t trust in the person who has hurt us, but in Christ who will give us wisdom for establishing healthy boundaries that are often necessary.
You see, true forgiveness is not just a gift to the offender, but a gift to our own souls that enable us to finally scale the majestic spiritual heights of heavenly peace.
Paula Masters is the author of “Exceptional Bloom: Coming Alive After fifty” and the founder of True Source Ministries, an online ministry to hurting women found at tsmwomen.org as well as next-is-now.com, an online community group for women over fifty. She stays connected with her readers on her “Over fifty and Fabulous” Facebook page and online at OverFiftyandFab.com.