Imperfect Love

By Shannon Pugh
In Hope & Healing
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Everybody knows that there are different types of “love." Clearly, loving Target (which I do) and loving your newborn child are two very different things! I mean, I would assume… my husband and I don’t have children. But we do have a dog, and spending time with her definitely evokes different emotions than spending time perusing the Target dollar section! Most of us use the word “love” many times a day to describe our favorite foods, activities, objects and people. But it’s understood that we mean different things when we say that word… love can mean enjoyment, affection, deep friendship, romantic feelings, tenderness, etc.

The Bible talks a lot about love. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, He says “love." Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). When Moses asks God to show him His glory, God passes by him and says that He is “abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands” (Exodus 34:5-7). John uses the word “love” 27 times in one passage (1 John 4:7-21)!

With all this talk of love in the Bible, it seems like following Jesus should feel like one big Valentine’s Day! But it doesn’t, does it? Unfortunately, sin and brokenness are pervasive in our world and in our lives. Everyone experiences love that is corrupted, tainted, and twisted.

The Bible uses four different words for love:

Eros – romantic/sensual love

Storge – familial love (especially between parents and children)

Philia – affectionate love between friends

Agape – God’s unconditional love for humankind

When Eros is tainted by sin, it causes domestic abuse, rape, infidelity and divorce.

When Storge is tainted by sin, it causes parents to neglect, abuse or abandon their children.

When Philia is tainted by sin, it causes hatred and betrayal.

And the ripple effects of these corrupted types of love can be devastating in our lives. We experience depression, loneliness, hopelessness, anxiety, fear, bitterness, and shame. The corruption of love keeps a lot of therapists in business. No wonder so many of us feel like puking when we see pink and red hearts everywhere!

But what about that fourth one, Agape? Agape love is complete and total love. It is perfectly unconditional, empathetic, and sacrificial. If you want to understand Agape love, head on over to 1 Corinthians 13! Verses 4-7 make up the famous passage that’s been read at approximately 99.9% of the weddings I’ve been to, and the word used throughout is Agape. Agape is patient, Agape is kind.

Agape love cannot be corrupted, tainted or twisted. The problem is that only God is capable of loving that way! We can be patient with someone, care for someone, or sacrifice for another’s benefit. But we cannot love unconditionally… it’s just not within the realm of human ability. But while we are incapable of loving unconditionally, God is incapable of loving with conditions. He is ONLY capable of unconditional Agape love. And Jesus was the ultimate expression of this love. He saw us treating each other in twisted, corrupted and tainted ways. And then He came to earth Himself and experienced being treated that way. He was abused, abandoned, shamed and betrayed. And yet, He still allowed Himself to be murdered on the cross and then came back to life, leaving our sin in the grave for all eternity. THIS is Agape love.

If you think God has abused, abandoned, or betrayed you, I want to tell you here and now that He is not capable of that. God is complicated and mysterious, so He often allows things that we don’t understand. He has allowed much pain in my life, and I wrestle with that on a daily basis (often with the help of a professional counselor). But God is not a perpetrator. He is only capable of loving us with utter kindness, mercy, compassion and goodness.

If you have experienced corrupted love and are overwhelmed by the ripple effects, let us help. You can talk to a pastor, get a referral for a counselor, or find community with others who have been through similar experiences. Believe me, it’s worth the work. Because experiencing God’s Agape love is a game-changer and it brings freedom and healing to all who receive it!

You can learn more about our Hope & Healing ministries at

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