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"Daddy, How Do You Spell Love?"
1 John 4:7-16
One afternoon while a father was cutting the grass,
his four-year-old daughter came to the back door and shouted,
"Daddy, how do you spell love?"
He gave her the four letters and she placed them in a drawing which she later
proudly presented to those she loved.
How do you spell love?
Spelling love is more than a matter of putting four letters of the alphabet together
in a correct sequence.
We spell love as we express it and live it and in the way we fulfill our personal relationships.
In that way love must be the most misspelled word in the vocabulary of our lives.
There is abundant evidence of the disastrous consequences of a misdirected
and inadequate love:
Our children are asking the question: "How do you spell love?"
- The teenager whose parents have given her everything but the gift of their presence and love.
- A battered spouse victimized by one who had earlier said,
"I pledge to you my love."
- A church torn by jealousy, pettiness, and misapplied priorities.
- The words whispered in the ear of a date as the car stops in front of a motel:
"You love me, don't you?"
A world desperately in need of Christ's love is watching and waiting for our response,
which will make the difference in the quality of life now and forever.
I suggest that we spell love:
Trust -- Involvement -- Commitment
- With trust that accepts the risks,
- With an involvement that is willing to share,
- And with a commitment that stays until the finish.
There can be no genuine love without trust -- a trust that accepts the risks of sharing
with another your life, your thoughts, your goals, and your dreams.
It is not love that keeps a child chained to a parent who is unwilling to trust
that young person to make some decisions for their life.
There must be complete trust between husband and wife.
Jealousy leaves no room for trust and risk.
The Bible says, "Love believes all things."
That does not mean that love is gullible or blind, but it does mean that love possesses
the attitude of complete trust.
Love is also involvement that is willing to share.
Folk singer Joan Baez was married to David Harris.
David was sent to jail for refusing to serve in the army.
While he was incarcerated, Joan was always singing about David, telling of the love
David wrote a book about their relationship.
He wrote of how he missed his wife and was looking forward to the day
when he could be united with her and with his child.
A few months after David's release he said,
"Living together is getting in the way of our relationship."
They decided to separate.
Long distance love is much easier.
Some who are legally married live like singles.
She goes her way!
He goes his way!
She is on the community circuit; he is on the golf course.
He mows the yard; she mops the floor.
Each is doing his or her own thing -- no involvement, no commitment, and no sharing.
Their "first love" goes unnourished until, afflicted with emotional
and spiritual malnutrition, their love finally dies in the cold, sterile environment
of what might have looked like a "perfect marriage."
Love is also a commitment that never gives up.
Paul said, "Love endures all things... never ends... abides."
Love has a commitment quality that is willing to preserve and fine tune the relationship.
This should prevail in all our relationships -- husband-wife, parent-child,
At every level of relationships, love is not blind emotion; it is an act of the will,
a decision of commitment.
Two Biblical Examples
Look at two examples from Scripture that illustrate this kind of love.
A Father And His Daughter.
The Old Testament Book of Esther describes the relationship between a father
and his daughter.
Esther won the Mrs. Kingdom pageant and became Queen.
Haman, elevated to power by King Ahasuerus, issued an edict that everyone
should bow before him.
He became furious when Mordecai, Esther's adopted father, refused to obey the order.
In his fury, Haman issued an order to annihilate all the Jews.
Esther, who had not seen the king in some days -- and that tells us much about their marriage,
the lack of involvement, communication, and trust -- was encouraged by Mordecai to intercede
on behalf of her people.
To do this meant a possible death sentence.
Esther said, "I will go to the king,... if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16, RSV)
What a risk! What involvement! What commitment!
Esther had come to know this love through her adopted father, Mordecai.
Some of you have never been fathers in the flesh, but perhaps you have been
a better father to some than their natural father.
You have shown love and compassion to a niece, nephew, or youth in the community
or in the church.
You have been a spiritual father, willing to trust, accept risk, and involve yourself
because you loved.
Esther and Mordecai knew trust, involvement, and commitment.
They faced the risks and won.
A Father And His Two Sons
Luke 15 is the second example of love.
The younger son asked for his share of the coming inheritance that he might go out on his own.
His father gave it to him -- no fuss, no fighting.
He had loved his son and reared him, and then he let him go -- risking him to a far country.
The father never gave up and later reaped the reward of renewed and deepened love.
He had a commitment that stayed until the finish and later saw the boy's return.
The Father's Love
- He did not meet the boy with, "I told you so!"
- He said, "My son, welcome home!"
- He wrapped his arms around him with a love that had never really let him go.
The crucial thing about love is that it can only be spelled with help from the Father.
Just as the daughter asked, "Daddy, how do you spell love?" --
so must we come to God in order to know the true meaning of love.
The apostle John said, "Love is of God...; See how He has shown His love among us."
We cannot know what love is outside of a relationship with the Lord.
In creation God has shown His love for the entire world, over which we were called
to "have dominion."
What a risk!
In Christ God "became flesh and dwelt among us."
In Christ our Lord became involved with the full dimensions of our lives -- temptation,
suffering, joy, death.
He was willing to share all in order to give us life.
At the cross Jesus demonstrated commitment of the deepest kind. (Romans 5: 8)
Facing the cross, John noted the commitment of love --
"... having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end."
(John 13: 1)
Through the church He loves us still; He has trusted us with the ministry of reconciliation.
He risks the mission of winning the world to the likes of us.
He isn't finished yet. (Philippians 1:6; 1 John 3: 1-2)
"Daddy, how do you spell love?"
The Father tells us to spell it with trust, involvement, and commitment.
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, Paul prays that we may know the dimensions
of Christ's love and be rooted and grounded in it.
He begins the prayer with the hope "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith..."
There can be no love until Christ is first received into our hearts by faith.
We must be willing to acknowledge our sin and our failure to accept Christ's death for our sin.
This is trust.
We risk it all for Him.
We are willing to become involved.
We make a firm and lasting commitment.
Then, we can truly know the love of God.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White