It was the summer of 1991, Eileen and I had just accepted a teaching position at Sanders Middle School. We stopped in St. Johns to look for a place to live and were sitting in our hotel room when we heard a knock at our door. We were surprised because we didn't know a soul in St. Johns. Who could it be? I opened the door and there stood a nice looking couple. They identified themselves as Ted and Julie Raban. They said they had heard we might be moving to St. Johns and wanted to welcome us to town and offered their assistance with anything we might need. We visited for awhile and then said our goodbyes. After they left, Eileen and I talked about how amazing it was to have someone come to our hotel room and make us feel so welcome our first night in St. Johns.
We have now been in St. Johns going on 24 years, and we call St. Johns home. We love our community and the good people who live here. We have always been treated with kindness and love.
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is found in John Chapter 13. This is the chapter where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and then teaches some very important doctrine. In verses 34 and 35 we read:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
What a great lesson we are taught in those verses. When I read that passage, I think of the Raban's and how kind they were to us that night. But it wasn't just that night; they have always treated us with kindness and love. What great examples they have been to me in my life! There are many more wonderful people in our community who are true disciples of Christ, going about loving and caring for others.
Sometimes, however, we hear stories of people being offended, of rumors being spread or criticism being dished out. When I hear such things, I like to think that we are better than that, or that surely we can be better than that. I know it's not always easy following in Christ's footsteps because I have made mistakes by contributing to talk that wasn't always positive. There is no doubt that we can all try a little harder and be a little better in showing kindness and speaking more kindly.
One of my favorite quotes is: "I will greet this day with love in my heart. And how will I speak? I will laud my enemies and they will become friends; I will encourage my friends and they will become brothers. Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip. When I am tempted to criticize I will bite my tongue; when I am moved to praise I will shout from the roofs.”
I need to share one last scripture. It is found in I Peter chapter 1:22, and it is where I found the title for this message. It reads: "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."
Just think what St. Johns would be like if we all lived by this advice. We're a wonderful town now, but we can be, and should be, a town that is truly amazing, amazing because of how we love and treat each other. The town that loves with a pure heart, fervently.