To lay down your life for a friend

The Standard February 18, 2021

Community Bible Study groups across the United States are celebrating the organization’s 45th anniversary by studying the Gospel of John this school year. Books of the Bible are always studied but usually there is variety in which ones leaders from different locations choose. This week the Greenville day class covered John 15, which includes the seventh and final “I am” saying of Jesus where he declares that he is the vine. Jesus continues, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down their life for their friends.” (John 15:8-13)

Someone laying down their life for a friend is something we do not necessarily hear about in a typical day. My mother and I enjoy walking by the graves, ivy and trees in the church yard at historic Calvary Episcopal in Tarboro. On Wednesday we took a path which was new for me. As we were about to exit the main gate, I noticed a beautiful double headstone and that it had the names of two girls. Originally, I assumed they must have been twins who died at birth or shortly thereafter. Upon looking more closely I saw that, although both had died on June 26, 1875, the fifteen-year-olds had unique birthdays and different last names.

According to the July 2, 1875 edition of the Tarborough Southerner, four young ladies gathered on Friday evening, June 25 “to enjoy a few days in the country,” one and a half miles from Tarboro at the home of Virginia and John Staton. On Saturday, Misses Virginia Dancy, Minerva Pittman, Dora Staton and Hester Pippen went to a pond approximately one half of a mile from the Staton home. “After clothing themselves in proper suits, they took a pleasure boat and rowed to a place in which the water was supposed to be very shallow. The two first mentioned remained in the boat, but the others, after bathing a short length of time, commenced to play in the water and had gotten fifteen or twenty yards from the boat before they were aware. Suddenly they neared a canal that had been cut some time before through the pond, with which they were unacquainted- one step more, hand in hand, they were in water eight feet deep. Both sank.” Dora knew how to swim and got to more shallow water. When she saw Hester struggling, she swam to try to help her. Sadly, she was unable to rescue her friend. The tragic result was that both Dora Staton and Hester Pippen drowned. Both girls were buried the next day at Calvary Episcopal Church, on Sunday afternoon.

We hardly can imagine the grief of those parents, families and friends. The love that leapt into action by Dora must have reflected the greatest love which Jesus describes. You and I might never come to a point where we could make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, but we certainly have numerous and regular opportunities to make smaller sacrifices to love and care for them.

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