Ten years have passed since we issued the Kairos document. It was and still is a moment of truth, a word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. My hope, in this short essay, is to address the third component: love. Indeed, it is difficult to talk about love during a season of war. There is so much hate in the media, in our streets, and even in our worship centers. To hate your neighbor and to act selfishly is embedded in political ideologies. It is becoming part, as well, of influential religious ideologies. In short, we struggle with hate every day when we encounter checkpoints, violence, discriminatory laws, religious extremism, powerful empires, and systemic oppression.
Yet we are called to love. Love is such a mysterious word in the context of hate. What does it mean? How can we pursue a politics of love and a civilization of love? In order to address the issue of love in a Christian Palestinian context, I shall address three areas of love: covenantal, Christological, and missional love.
First, covenantal love is the only acceptable kind of love in the Old Testament. At the heart of the Old Testament is the book of Deuteronomy. This book is about the covenant with God. The covenant is summarized by the following text: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6: 4-5). Loving God is the most important element in the relationship of human beings with him. It is the reason for keeping the commandments. It is the motive for loving your people and your neighbor. It is the best response to knowing God and understanding God’s nature.
This kind of love is part of the story of an oppressed people. They were slaves in Egypt struggling with oppressive powers and praying to God to liberate them. God took the initiative and confronted the powers of systemic evil. But divine love is interested in much more. God does not want people’s love for the sake of their political interest. Instead, they should have true awe and respect of God’s person in a covenantal relationship. Such a covenant cannot ignore the nature of God, his will, and his purposes for all of creation. His love is understood in the context of his holiness, righteousness, and commitment to justice. Loving God empowers us to love his people. Thus covenantal love is important in a country that is marked with diverse Christian denominations who disagree on many doctrinal issues. Palestinian Christians must embody covenantal love with generous orthodoxy that seeks to embrace every Christian regardless of their denomination.
Second, it is imperative to address Christological love. The Old Testament covenants-with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, to say nothing of the New Covenant in Jeremiah-lead us progressively to Christ, in whom all the promises are fulfilled. So without Christological love, we cannot rightly understand covenantal love. The love of Christ for his enemies is one of the most striking revelations in the New Testament. Christ died not only to reconcile us to God but also to each other. He died on the cross insisting to be reconciled to his enemies. But this kind of love is not an excuse to abandon justice. Rather, it is an opportunity to pursue justice with the logic of love.
Both justice and love met on the cross. God’s love is a kind of love that bleeds on a cross. Interestingly, several Christian and Muslim Palestinians see themselves as crucified by their enemies. For them, Christ is perceived as a figure with whom the oppressed can naturally identify.
However, love perceives differently. If we adopt this controversial Kairos theology, then we are not only crucified by our enemies but we are also crucified for the sake of our enemies. Put differently, we choose to suffer for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the best interest of our enemies. Such orthopathic love is stunning, yet it has the power to bring forth a new world. This kind of love can transform us and destroy personal, social, and political hatred without abandoning justice.
Third, this leads me to missional love. Covenantal and Christological love must be missional. It is not selfish or ethnocentric. The mission of love is bringing forth justice and righteousness for all of our neighbors. Only then we can attain the peace that God desires and that fulfills the deepest needs of our lives. Missional love can be seen by the story of Jesus and the Samaritan women. Jesus crossed geographical, political, religious, cultural, historical, and gender barriers in order to demonstrate the love of God.
Each of the aforementioned three loves is important for attaining a mature vision of love. Leaving out even one of them leads us to a distorted form of love, even to hate. We as Palestinian Christians are called to be agents of love in a world full of hate. This love must be rooted in a covenantal relationship with God, in union with the suffering Christ, and in a mission to bring forth a new world full of justice, mercy, equality, and righteousness. It is pursuing the dream of love, the civilization of love, the community that honors God. Such love is active. It engages God, society, the enemy and controversial political concerns. Last, regardless of the power of hate, love shall prevail.
This article has been slightly modified from Yohanna Katanacho. “Kairos and the Logic of Love.” Pages 30-32 in Kairos Palestine: Ten Years of Prophetic Voice. Bethelehm: Kairos, 2019.