Love covers all things

I came across an interesting passage today studying Paul’s perspective on love.  It is found in 1Cor 13:7.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1Co 13:7 NET.)

At first glance this might not seem like it has much to do with covering and authority.  The word translated “bears” is stego which literally means to cover, like a roof.  Up until now I never found any passage that speaks literally of a covering in church relationship aside from Peter’s famous statement about love covering a multitude of sins.  Perhaps I’ve missed something. 

For this passage lots of translations render stego as “bears” but the NIV/TNIV do not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1Co 13:7 TNIV)

I took a look at Stego in the TDNT and found a strong case to render the word according to its more literal meaning.

Various renderings are suggested for 1 Cor. 13:7. In view of the earlier “bear” the sense “to endure” raises problems, since it seems to be repetitive. “To excuse”, is hardly possible, and the middle would be required for the sense “restrains itself.” The meaning, then, is perhaps that love “covers” all things. In full self-giving to others, the love that is rooted in God’s love keeps silent about unfavorable matters.

Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1073). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

I found lots of commentators that bring the meaning of protective covering in to their interpretation of this text.  The covering here isn’t about protection from malevolent spiritual beings but more in the sense of keeping in confidence the weaknesses and failings of the people we love.  Love doesn’t broadcast the faults and failings of others.  They believe the text speaks to a gracious amount of concealment.  It does concern me how this might be taken too far if corruption is hidden from view when it should be exposed.

I have my own sense of what this could look like in church life.  There is protection in love.  When people know they are loved and are tangibly supported they can be transparent about their weaknesses and failings.  The community can then respond by supporting that person in the ways that they need support.  We can cover for each other’s weaknesses and be ready with a gentle helping hand.  In another sense genuine love is the best response to a lot of dysfunction.  It is a universal elixir for a great many interpersonal ailments. 

In my experience the most effective ministry is the continual proclamation of the gospel in the context of a relationship flooded with God’s divine love.

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