Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

No Man is an Island

Christ's community vs man's island

In 1624 John Donne published the famous poem, “No Man is an Island,” in his book Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. It reads,

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 any manner of thy friends 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.

The Continent of Christ’s Kingdom

If this is true of the community of mankind—that any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind—how much more does the community of Christ feel the weight of this burden?

How much more are Christ’s followers diminished by another sojourner’s death—be it the death of one’s health, the death of a relationship, the death of a job, or some other untimely and burdensome death?

Every believer is a piece of the continent of Christ’s kingdom, and in particular their local faith community. Yet sadly, some are quite unaware when a clod is washed away by the sea of sin.

As parts of the main are being swept out by the tides of doubt, and shorelines are receding from the waves of discouragement, and as promontories shrink from the erosion of worldly elements, some have become so busy building islands they fail to take notice.

The Fellowship of Christ’s Community

Members of Jesus’ community, by virtue of their union with Christ, have fellowship, κοινωνια (koinοnia), with God and with one another. Fellowship is participation communion—the act of sharing in the activities or privileges of an intimate association or group.

According to 1 John 1:1-10, the basis for fellowship is belief in the gospel, the condition for fellowship is walking in light (or truth), and the context for fellowship is Christ’s community.

In practice, fellowship is sharing our inner lives in the context of God’s Word, in the energy of the Holy Spirit. It is a participation that is fiercely dedicated to uprooting all of the old life, all of our brokenness and sin, so that we might be transformed into the image of God’s Son, Jesus (Romans 8:28-30).

Certainly, we must keep in perspective that it is God who does the work of regeneration, and justification. And He is the power at work behind our sanctification.

But all of God’s work has a means to its end. That means is our call to participate in His work through faith, repentance, and fellowship–fellowship with God and fellowship with one another.

As Paul told the faith community at Philippi,we are to “…work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

No Islands in Christ’s Community

But no one is an island who accomplishes this work alone, this work of participating with God by following Christ! Remember, even Lewis had Clark, Sir Edmund Hillary had Tenzing Norgay, and Frodo Baggins had Samwise Gamgee.

We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the hope and comfort of the Scriptures, and the encouragement of fellow sojourners in Jesus’ covenant community—all the things we need that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

May God grant us grace to not become so busy fortifying our own ephemeral islands that we fail to participate in the continent of Christ’s community, else we may one day find ourselves enveloped by the raging sea with no continent in sight.

Feature Image Photo Credit: Hadi Zaher via Compfight cc
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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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4 Replies

  1. angela

    Forsaking the gathering of the saints leaves the shipwrecked Christian not only alone on an island built upon the sinking sands of fear, doubt and despair, but also as easy prey for each passing wind-“Is that the wind that will carry me home?” There comes that time, when a raft must be forged through faith in Christ, and trusted upon to transport the isolated saint back to those who will truly encourage and edify in His name, and for His glory. May the Christians who are standing on a solid communal continent call out a heartfelt welcome home, as the raft nears their shore. <

  2. Ken Gillespie

    I love your closing paragraph; a needed prayer against a very real danger in the modern Western church!

    1. Thanks, Ken. I’m always honored when you stop by.