“No man is an island, entire of itself…”1 These are the famous words written by John Donne, a 16th Century English clergyman & poet in his book of devotions. It was made up of meditations, followed by an exposition, and prayer. In one of the meditations, Donne was sharing how all of us on this planet are part of this world’s human community.
He made the point that if just one piece of a continent is washed away into the sea, we all have lost a part of the earth where we no longer can walk. This certainly goes against the modern concept of individualism that we see hailed and heralded from all directions. “I am my own person!” they say. “I don’t need anyone, I can make it on my own!” “What I do is my own business, no one should tell me how to live!”
But the most serious malady caused by this attitude is in a Christian’s spiritual life. It’s almost as if they are saying, “I know God’s there and He knows that I’m here, and that’s all I need.” The entire New Testament is contextualized on the fact that we all need each other in order to grow, be useful, stay disciplined, and have a significant impact on the world around us. Such people figure that as long as they pray for meals and before they go to bed, read their Bible each day, attend church on Sunday and do no one harm, they are okay.
Jesus made it clear that we are to love one another as God loved us and to treat our neighbor as we want to be treated ourselves. By doing so, we can draw strength from one another. If we hear of someone being born-again into the family of God, we rejoice, even it occurred in some far off land we’ve never visited before. By the same token, when we find out that some believer fell from grace and went back into sin, we should all feel a loss.
Donne then wrote these memorable words: “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.” This may have been the line Ernest Hemingway drew from for the title of his war novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
At the end of the Meditation, Donne writes: “If by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and to secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.” So remember, you are never alone. God’s Word says He will never leave us or forsake us. So how much more should we feel the same commitment for our fellow believers. So each time you see a Christian brother or sister, tell them how much you appreciate them being there for you and others. Then watch their smile and how their face lights up. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1John Donne: Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII, Cambridge at the University Press, 1624, pp.96-98