No man is an island – a poem by John Donne (1572-1631)
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
What a remarkable statement, “If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” That line never fails to stir my heart, as does the line, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” During John Donne’s time, the ringing of bells let people know when someone within their community had died. It was important for the whole community to know they’d lost one of their own. We need that kind of thinking in our local churches.
A church can’t be just a loose association of Christians. Whatever befalls any one of us affects us all. Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, has declared that we are to “love one another” in a way that is so unique that people of the world take notice and see what can’t be found in their world. Sadly, somehow in America, the frequency of ‘death tolls’ has skewed our understanding of love. We say we love, but what remains of love if we fail to share the Gospel with the living and ignore the needs of those that remain after death?
Speaking of death, death is taken too casually in our world. I think that’s because we read about it every day – the casualties in Ukraine, the people that froze to death in Buffalo, New York, and so forth. The totality of daily deaths numbs us. It is difficult for us to see the preciousness of life buried in those numbers. Nevertheless, we must.
As John Donne wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” So, as we begin to fold and pack away 2022, before we fasten that box, let’s ask our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to assess and show us how we represented Him to those in this lost and dying world. How did our local church respond? And for 2023, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to change us, so that we will hear with Christ’s ears, actively love with His heart, and always see the preciousness of life in everyone. For, if not us, then who?
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