"No Man Is An Island"

The Roman Catholic turned Anglican Englishman lawyer turned diplomat, preacher and poet, John Donne (1572-1631), composed these lines (from his collection Devotions upon Emergent Occasions):

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.

There are those who either by personal subscription or personal behavior seem to believe that a nation like ours, a people like us, can live unto ourselves and let the world fend for herself. We’ve been hearing shades of such a notion in the presidential campaign that promises to last only two more weeks (although we all remember the contested election in 2000). We feel it in the divisive, angry rhetoric that is increasingly crowding the airwaves of talk radio and the blogosphere and spilling over into every day backroom conversations. No matter how this nation ends up voting on November 8, we all know that on November 9 we will awaken to a country angrily divided and roiling over the outcome.

“No man is an island,/entire of itself,/every man is a piece of the continent,/a part of the main.” The truth is we cannot live in isolation from those with whom we vehemently disagree, no matter our convictions and in spite of our differences.

The stark truth, made more provocative by the Incarnation, is that God himself refused the isolation alternative, choosing rather to immerse himself in the lazar house of this planet’s quarantined inhabitants, rather than live without us:

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).   

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

When it dawns upon you that you are the object of so counter-cultural, so self-emptying a love as this—does it not follow (if it truly has dawned on you) that we are compelled by that very awareness to go out and in self-emptying deeds of service seek to love a world as undeserving as we?  “Freely you have received, freely give,” Jesus invites us (Matthew10:10). “For the love of Christ compels us,” Scripture reminds us (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Hope Trending ends this evening. But the fact is it doesn’t end at all. All ten of the archived programs will be accessible on our new hopetrending.org website. Which means that both the Spirit of God and you can point your friends, colleagues, neighbors, family members to those archived presentations. Collectively we have invested thousands of human hours and even more of U.S. dollars into Hope Trending’s Kingdom mission. I am confident we can be certain that our Lord intends no termination to the mission and ministry of this strategic series. Our responses in social media, which number now into the hundreds of thousands, are evidence enough that God has only begun to work in our midst. And “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Thus we cannot live in isolation from this world that desperately needs what only Christ can bring. No mission ends tonight. In fact it is only beginning. Because Jesus and Donne are right:

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.