Apostle John assures the persecuted churches that in the midst of all that they are facing, they are still being loved by God. That is one of the salient truths that we find in the Book of Revelation.
God’s love for us is different from all the love that we have experienced so far. Human love is conditional. We find difficult to love a person who is physically unattractive. The lady at the post office counter greeted me with a very friendly smile. I was stunned by her manners because I was rather a stranger there since I left that town decades ago. It is after many years that I stepped into that post office. She was smiling at me as he met a long-term friend. But I was scared by her friendly smile so that I did not greet her or smile back. She looked scary to me. The left side of her face is burnt and he did not have one eye, and the left side of her mouth—gums, teeth and are visible—since that part of her lips are also gone. She was friendly but her appearance was scary.
Later I found out that when she was young, she was involved in a triangular love. A young man who loved her but knew that she was in love with another person already, threw a bottle of Sulfuric acid at her face out of jealousy. She was disfigured the way she is now. Then the person who really loved her and she thought will be her life-partner for ever also left her after the accident since she was no more attractive. I later found out that she was my friend in school, so I could walk down the memory lane and pick up her image that was hers before the accident, a very attractive teenager at that time.
Physical attractiveness is one condition that we lay down for people to deserve our love. Similarly, we also moral behaviour also as a condition for our love. Who is going to love a criminal, a mugger, a woman who makes a living by selling her body? Even her own customers don’t love her though they may hire her body for a night for their own pleasure.
Though physically attractive, and morally upright, it is difficult for us to love a person who is not useful. He wanted to talk to someone to vent himself out. He is an engineer who migrated with his family to a foreign country looking for a better life. However, he could not find a job as an engineer. He was not willing to do anything other than what he is trained for because being an engineer was his life's dream. So he was jobless and was dependent on his wife and daughter who were the only earning members of the family. The life was not easy for them too with a jobless man to be provided for. So, the wife turned hostile, the daughter joined suit, they plotted together to send him back to the country of his origin. Once he landed, they cancelled his visa so that he cannot get back. This man is now wandering around lamenting his fate. For his wife, the marital vow to love despite all circumstances was valid only if he was useful.
However, the manner of God’s love is very different. God loves who are not lovable by human standards and even his own standards. Quite interestingly, God loves who doesn’t love themselves!
The greatest display of God’s love is on the cross. Apostle John writes that, ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him’ (1 John 4:9).
Since God doesn’t lay conditions for his love, he loves every one who is unattractive, useless and even those who are objects of his wrath—sinners. Saint Paul reflects on this in Romans 5:8. ‘… But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ He says the same thing in another profound way in Ephesians also. ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….’ (Eph 2:4)
This love of God is unprecedented, unparalleled and all surpassing. That means it can not fully understood or explained. That is what Paul meant when he said Christ’s love is ‘the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph 3:19). The most important aspect of God’s love for humanity is that it was initiated by him without any conditions as John say in 1 John 4:10. ‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’
However, the most important thing about it is that it is not a thing of the past but a present reality as Apostle John puts it in Revelation 1:5. The King James Version to align all verbs in the past translates ‘loved us’ to bring it line with the other past tenses in the same sentence—'freed us’, ‘made us.’ However, the Greek uses the present tense—loves us.
This present tense is relevant to the communities to whom this book is addressed. They were feeling the heat of persecution. The reason for their persecution is their faith in Jesus Christ. It is thus important for them to know that Christ still loves them. The pain in Christian life doesn’t meant that God has abandoned us. The suffering doesn’t not mean that God love has ran out. But despite all that happens, God still loves them. The truth is that God’s love is a present reality. It is an assurance from God even at times when we find it difficult to love ourselves.