Sunday Reflections – No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each piece 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 or thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1624, and it inspired a famous book (Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) which then inspired a song by a well-known rock band (not my kind of music… my brother’s).

The poem also well illustrates Luke’s words in Acts 2:42-47 where he stresses the importance of connection. Once becoming a believer, an individual joined with other believers and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing the in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”

Being united by faith in Christ, the early church focused on connections to strengthen and encourage each other. Connection was crucial to the survival of the church in its infancy.

Connecting with a body of believers still remains crucial in our challenging culture today. Yet the onus lies with the individual to connect and be connectible. But how does one cultivate healthy connectivity?

  1. Connect to God. Without this connection, all other connections are futile. Begin with the basics of consistent Bible study, fellowship and prayer as the individuals in the early church did. Add to that foundation as led by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Be connectable. Make time in your schedule for others. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and give you an attitude that draws instead of pushes others away. Realize you can’t change others, and focus on the one person you can change.
  3. Develop broad shoulders. No one is perfect. People will say and do stupid things. Finding ways to support and encourage through imperfection creates connection. (See post Do You Have Broad Shoulders? for more on this point.)
  4. Be willing to share. While sharing possessions certainly fits here (an example set by those Timothy spoke about in Acts), the point of sharing burdens must also be made (Galatians 6:2). Some burdens are obvious. Others not. Allowing someone to bear your burden may mean being brave enough to share it. Of course, this is a lot easier when healthy connections already exist.
  5. Submit to the process. Connecting exists as an ongoing process. Making good choices to cultivate the process is crucial as each individual does his/her part by connecting to God, being connectable, developing broad shoulders and being willing to share.

Donne’s poem not only so well emphasizes the idea that no person exists to live life as a lonely island, it furthers the point by saying that “each man’s death diminishes me.” In other words, each person brings something unique to the body and has a “plan and a purpose” (Jeremiah 29:11). The body functions most effectively and with greater efficiency with all its parts connected and healthy.

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15 Replies to “Sunday Reflections – No Man Is An Island”

  1. Good points Kari. Your point on being willing to share really makes connections either grow or not. If you are not willing to open up with someone or they not with you then the connection will be weak. To get a good connection takes courage to "put yourself out there" and see it the other person is willing as well. Otherwise it will be a less than ideal connection and not as fruitful as it could be. I do not think you can have deep connections with alot of different people but you can have pretty good ones with people who need ministering to. I would think the deepest connections are reserved for a few. Although I believe that true you can still have some very meaningful connections with people that may not require each of you to bare your soul to the full extent but can be beneficial to you both.
    I hope this makes sense.

    1. Have had several friends go to some bad places because they let something get out of hand. I have to believe it wouldn't have had they chosen to share the problem early on. For myself, I have suffered alone many times and realize that was done needlessly. The body of Christ is there to hold each other up, but it does no good if we choose to live separated. Yes, deep connections are often reserved for a few. I also believe that a variety of friends help meet more needs. One person cannot be everything, so God gave us multiple people to help meet needs at various levels and times.

  2. I'm constantly thinking about this idea of Christian community. I think my presence in community is essential to sustaining and growing my faith. It's in the interchange of ideas, the common reflection on faith and Scripture, the participation in corporate worship, that help keep me anchored in my love for Jesus Christ.

    "Develop broad shoulders" addresses a specific trend I've seen among believers, dropping out of community because of disappointment or hurt. This is good counsel although difficult to live at times.

    1. Yes, very difficult to live at times. Broad shoulders develop over time as we choose to let hurts go. Even though I think I have pretty broad shoulders, I still let hurts in sometimes, especially if I'm tired or hungry or overwhelmed. So much is at play here, but it's part of pursuing perfection & excellence, I think.

  3. I think this connection helps us to not underestimate the impact that we make. Sometimes our jobs seem thankless. Our gifts seem insignificant. But we know that we are a part of the body and serve the rest in some important way. The body would be incomplete without us.

  4. This is really good stuff Kari. I am in the midst of a situation where I had been connected with someone in the body and shared openly about things in my life. Suddenly she turned on me and no longer will speak to me, changed her phone number so I cannot reach her, and refused my mail. It hurts.

    I also know that being alone, isolated, trying to deal with life alone is not a good thing.

    I am grateful that as one door closes God opens another, in all things, even with the need for friends and support.

    The body is not perfect and one must be careful..

    Then in the midst of this along comes another devo that remind me to pray for those who wrong me….so God uses the body to guide and correct, to help us grow. Always amazes me how just what I need appears when I need it.

    1. God certainly knows what we need to need and exactly when we need to hear it. He brings other blog posts to confirm what I’ve written so often, and he also uses comments like yours to do that too. I love how he connects all the dots in my life.

      Also, I wanted to say I am so sorry to hear about the situation with your friend. That is so painful to go through. I have friend who is shutting out people that speak truth because she doesn’t want to hear any truth but the one she’s creating. I know it’s different that your situation, but I think the feelings are somewhat the same. I thought this person was an accountability partner, and it turns out she was heading down the wrong path for the past 5 years. How did I not see it? Anyway, I said all that to say that I feel for what you are going through.

  5. I would also add, "be intentional about connecting." That's what I need to work on right now. Making the effort to call people up and plan things to do. I'm not a busy enough person that this happens just in the course of living life – if it's going to happen, I need to make it happen!

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