"The greatest of these is love …" (I Cor. 13:13)

Why do so many of us fail to love as well, or as often, as we could? One reason: we have developed attitudes and/or actions which inhibit our ability to love. Like plaque that builds up in the arteries and inhibits the flow of blood through our system, "plaque" can build up in our lives and inhibit the flow of God's love to those around us.

What are these obstacles that keep us from loving? We can find many of them hidden in the apostle Paul's classic treatise on love (1 Corinthians 13). Here we can find both the qualities of love and the obstacles:

Love's Ideal — "Love is patient" / Love's Obstacle — Impatience

Impatience describes a person whose own agenda is more important than that of anyone else. This person has little time or care for others' concerns. An impatient person must constantly be entertained and quickly loses interest in people if they are not filling a need in his or her own life. The Greek word Paul uses for "patience" describes a person who has been wronged and has the power to avenge himself, but chooses not to. Impatience seeks revenge. Patience does not.

Rate yourself on the scales following each of love's obstacles:

"Most of the time, I am …"

Impatient |Patient

Love's Ideal: "Love is kind" / Love's Obstacle — Unkindness

Some people think kindness is synonymous with weakness. Therefore, they reason, one cannot obtain strength and power through kindness. Those who constantly see themselves in competition with others tend to be unkind. A latent sense of inferiority is another cause for unkindness. In contrast, love is the readiness to enhance the life of another person.

"Most of the time, I am …"

Unkind |Kind

Love's Ideal: "Love is trusting" / Love's Obstacle — Jealousy

Love naturally means concern. As love grows, concern for the beloved also grows. But often, without one realizing it, this concern can become possessive. Jealousy is normal concern that has grown out of control, just as a cancer cell is only a normal cell grown out of control. Jealousy requires total possession—it must have exclusive rights to another person. This emotion has the power to overwhelm and destroy the most sound and secure relationship, and the most rational person.

"Most of the time, I am …"

Jealous |Trusting

Love's Ideal: "Love is humble" / Love's Obstacle — Arrogance

Various Bible translations use different words for this obstacle to love: "boastful," "rudeness," "proud," "anxious to impress," "braggart," "cherishes the idea of its own importance." Arrogant people give their "love" away as though it were a tremendous favor. Their real purpose, however, is to put others down while trying to lift themselves up.

"Most of the time, I am …"

Arrogant |Humble

Love's Ideal: "Love is generous" / Love's Obstacle — Selfishness

If there is one quality that creates an insurmountable barrier to love, it is selfishness. Actions motivated by selfishness are exactly the opposite of actions motivated by love. Christ knew about the problem of selfishness when he said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). Selfishness seeks its own way, and in the process loses it. Love seeks the way of others, and in the process finds its own.

"Most of the time, I am …"

Selfish |Generous

Love's Ideal: "Love is slow to anger" / Love's Obstacle — Irritability/touchiness

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