Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins
[forgives and disregards the offenses of others].
The Apostle Peter is speaking to followers of Christ about what he thinks they will be experiencing in the End Times. Remember, Christ had told them He would be returning soon and the Believers of that time thought the End of Days and Christ's return was imminent.
This is one of those verses that almost everyone likes to tell you what it means to them. Today, I'm going to take a little different approach and tell you what it's not. It's not unusual for secularists and cultists to distort the Word of God for their own purposes, but today there are even so-called Christians who are twisting this Scripture to satisfy their own carnal desires and their eagerness to compromise, or fit in, with the world.
In fact, the human race has gotten so far off track from the context in which Peter was writing, that whenever a Bible-based Christian points out that fornication or homosexuality or abortion is a sin, there are always those (even Church-going Christians) who rush to proclaim, "Love covers over a multitude of sins." They will argue that the Bible never specifically forbids such sin, and anyway, God is all about Love. He judges the heart, and sent us Son as His ambassador of Love; He doesn't want us to be judged by a bunch of rules. Boy, that argument has Satan's deception written all over it!
You see, we can't just pluck this one verse out of the short chapter of 1 Peter 4; we must look at it within the context of the chapter's entirety. In the first part of Chapter 4, Peter is equipping Believers to follow Christ; to resolve to live for God's will, just as our Lord did. And Peter plainly says that we will "give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead."
Notice that Peter is talking to those who are following Christ, and instructing not only the individual Believer, but the body of Believers, and we are to live a life in relation to each other that is pleasing to God. The fact that Peter is not advocating for turning a blind eye to obvious sin is evident just a few verses before this one. In verse 3, he reminds them that they have all spent enough time in doing what the pagans did, "carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, orgies, etc.". To think that he would then advise us to just love each other and look the other way when God's commandments are broken, is simply absurd.
What Peter is really saying here, is that as human beings, we will annoy and irritate each other in a vast range of offensive ways. But as fellow Believers, we should love each other as Christ loves us; willing to look past our imperfections and our fleshly nature which was born out of sin. Notice that the Amplified version of 1 Peter 4:8 says love "forgives and disregards the offenses of others." Obviously, this refers to overlooking (with love) the minor issues we face in each other, but not ignoring the abominable sins that God forbids.
I think it is reasonable to assume that Peter is concerned with how the Christian community is to survive in the midst of persecution, scoffers, and satanic deception. We have all seen the hypocrisy and jealousy that can destroy a Church family, and it is quite rational to think that Peter is cautioning against those kinds of behavior that can tear our Christian fellowship apart. Just as then, we should treat fellow Believers with patience and love, tolerating our imperfections. But it saddens me that, even within the body of Christ, this particular verse is being taken out of context, twisted, and used to pervert God's Word in order to lower His standards and compromise with the world. We must adhere to the true meaning and contextual relationship of His Holy Word, or we will surely be led astray in these End Times.