Love is at the core of the Christian faith. In fact, love is even used as the closest analogy to speak of the being of God. As we read in 1 John 4: 7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”Therefore, given the importance of the concept of love in the Christian faith it is worth coming back again and again to examine its meaning and implications.
In this issue of the JLE the concept of love is examined from two different perspectives. First, Adam Klaus-Peter, professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, examines the commandment to love one’s neighbor in the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly in Leviticus. He finds that rather than an abstract universal call for world peace the text was born out of a very specific context. The love command gives guidance on how to engage with an enemy without dehumanizing them, in the tribal society from within which the texts were produced. Notwithstanding the distance between our world and the world that inspired that command, Klaus-Peter believes that it continues to have value for us today, especially in context that resemble the conflictive world of the Old Testament. To love the neighbor is to recognize his or her humanity even in the midst of serious and even violent conflict with him or her.
The second article deals with the uses and abuses of a beloved New Testament text, namely Paul’s ode to love in 1 Corinthians 13. Javier Goitía, Dean and Professor of Theology and Homiletics at the Seminario Evangélico in Puerto Rico, laments the ways in which this text has been used in patriarchal Christian societies to subjugate women and force them to stay in very dangerous situations of domestic violence under the excuse that “love is patient,” etc. With his typical wit, Goitía asks whether such missuses and abuses of 1 Corinthians 13 have turned it into a text of terror. Ultimately, he answers with a resounding no! It is not a text of terror because it speaks not of a love that comes from us, but rather of the love that comes from God, the love, that is, with which God has loved us even from the cross of Christ. The problem then lies in the fact that this text has been used as a text of law rather than as a text of gospel. Goitía challenges us to recover the true dimension of gospel present in this text and thus liberate it from its misuses so that it can have the liberating effect that it had for Paul himself.