Choose Not to Be an Island

One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

The phrase “no man is an island” was first written in 1624 by the famous Elizabethan poet, minister, and scholar John Donne in his Devotions – Meditation XVII. The poem is quite dated by today’s standards, but it inspired a song with lyrics that ring true for all generations.

No man is an island

No man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

It goes on to say that all men are our brothers and we need one another. And although I should welcome this lofty concept, sometimes I just want to be a hermit and get away from everyone. Some are energized by the company of others; I am fatigued.

Visions of being alone on a tropical island enter my mind. My island would never get above 75 degrees, since I don’t like hot weather. (If I’m having a vision, might as well have one tailor made for me.) Not having to deal with the quirks of fickle people is appealing. Of course, in all honesty, to be truly happy on the island I would need TV, Internet, and a cell phone. I don’t need the cell phone to call people, but I have my photos, games, and music to consider. I might need room service, but then that would involve other people. Life gets so complicated.

But here’s the deal… God is more about community than isolation. He models this in the Trinitarian relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship.

To me, the true meaning of “no man is an island” is that whether I like it or not, we are all interconnected. We are interconnected with God and with each other. This is more than just a physical connection. It’s a spiritual one. God loves us. God loves others. God wants us to love Him. God wants us to love others. (Matthew 22:38-39) God wants us to love one another. (John 15:12)

God makes it clear that we have responsibilities towards one another. Just search for the phrase “one another” in the Bible and see what pops up. Here are a few examples…

  • …serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
  • …be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)
  • …honor one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • …accept one another. (Romans 15:7)
  • …admonish one another. (Romans 15:14)
  • …greet one another. (Romans 16:16)
  • …bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
  • …bear with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
  • …submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
  • …encourage one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • …pray for one another. (James 5:16)
  • …love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Consider this… These scriptures would be hard to fulfill in total isolation. You see, true Christianity is about our relationship with God and our relationship with “one another.”

So as I return from daydreaming about my fictitious island, I realize “no man is an island,” nor should he want to be one.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Find ways to connect with others at work, school, church, etc. Ask them questions and be interested in what they have to say.
  • Force yourself to smile at others.
  • Pray for those you come in contact with. You don’t have to know others really well to pray for them.
  • Ask God to help you be interested in other people.
  • Be patient with others and pray that they will be patient with you.