Friday, December 16, 2016
The Vision (12.16.16): The Benefits of Christian Community
Video: Simon and Garfunkel singing "I am a rock."
Image: CRBCers at Leaf Raking Day (12.3.16)
Note: Devotion taken from the introduction to last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 4:9-16.
In 1623 the English poet John Donne wrote these well known words:
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 (from Meditation # 17 in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions).
In the 1960s the pop duo Simon and Garfunkel riffed on Donne’s line in their song “I am a rock” in which the lyrics read in part:
I’ve built walls, a fortress, steep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship. Friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island.
Later, the song adds:
I touch no one and no one touches me
And it ends:
And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.
That song certainly captures the loneliness and isolation that can sometimes plague even the most friendly and sociable of men.
Loneliness was probably a sensation or experience with which the Preacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, was familiar. And yet guided by the Holy Spirit of God he was led to record one of the most poignant Scriptural statements describing the benefits of Christian community, coming in its various forms:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
In his respected commentary on Ecclesiastes Charles Bridges rightly observes that this passage has to do with “the deep responsibility of our social obligations” (Ecclesiastes, p. 92).
Indeed, no Christian is an island. We need the benefits of Christian community.