No Man is an 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.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He shares valuable tips on writing and teaching, rich insights into theology and literature, and meaningful perspective on living a life of significance. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.