In 1623 the English poet, John Donne wrote:
“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.”
The message of this poem is this: No single person is absolutely independent of all other persons! Every person is a part of the whole! Therefore, whatever happens to one has an effect on everyone else! I am a firm believer in this philosophy! The God I read about in the Bible is a God of purpose. Everything God did and everything God does was and is driven by purpose. Purpose pre-dated creation! God did not create and then found purpose; purpose was the reason for the creation! Therefore, the fact that you and I are here at this present time is proof that God has a purpose for our lives! Our births were not accidents, nor were they from unplanned incidents! (Those incidents may have been unplanned by our parents, but they didn’t catch God by surprise!) Our life has purpose!
Now, the reason I am so concerned about your life and your purpose is because your life and your purpose have a direct bearing upon my life! You see, your purpose is not just about you and my purpose is not just about me! Our purpose is about each other and others! Therefore, it is important to me that you become the you that God created you to be and it is important to you that I become the me God created me to be! I’ve been saying this to my church family for years and now I want to share it with you: I am convinced that the answers to many of the world’s ills are, even now, locked up in the mind of some young man or woman who have no idea of their purpose! And since they have no idea of their purpose; they are not fulfilling their purpose and we all are suffering as a consequence!
In Christian circles, we place a tremendous amount of effort in getting people “saved” so they might go to Heaven when they die. But salvation is about more than just a ticket to the Heavenly Banquet or a Free Pass from Hell! Salvation is also about being “saved from” a life of uselessness and being “saved to” the God-purposed life! Just as any creation cannot know the “why” of its existence without insight from the one who created it; we cannot know our purpose apart from the revelation that comes from a relationship with the One who created us with purpose in mind.
Consider this simplified illustration: Let’s supposed that it was God’s purpose for a certain young man to ultimately be a pharmaceutical chemist who would develop a drug to cure a debilitating illness that God knew you and several other people would have in the prime of your life. However, this young man never made it to college or med-school because he got involved in illegal activities and was sent to prison or killed. So, as time goes on, you develop disease that he was born to develop the drug to cure. But because he missed his purpose; you will suffer and perhaps even die pre-maturely! Now this may sound a little too simple and far-fetched to you, but have you thought about how much life would be different if Abraham Lincoln had never won the presidency? What if Adolf Hitler or Mussolini had been converted to Christianity? What if Martin Luther King, Jr., had decided that just being a local pastor was all he was supposed to do? Just as the decisions and lives of these men affect us even years after they are no longer alive, so do our decisions and lives impact the lives of people around us today and for years to come!
That is the real tragedy of the young gang-banger or the innocent victim getting killed in the streets! It was never God’s intention or God’s purpose for him to be a gang-banger or for the innocent victim to die an early death! Their deaths are not just tragic for their families and the people who knew and loved them; their deaths are tragic for all of us! We will never know “who or what they were meant to be!” We will never benefit from the gift (purpose) they were born to give! They may have been born to be the doctor to perfect a life-saving medical procedure. But because they didn’t fulfill their purpose and died much too early; others will also die pre-mature and unnecessary deaths!
Yes! It’s true what the poet said; “Any (in fact, every) man’s death diminishes me because I am involved with mankind!” Therefore when I hear of young people killing one another and killing innocent victims, I cry! I cry, not only for their families and friends, I cry for you and me! I cry because we all suffer because of their deaths! We all suffer because of their incarceration in the prison system! We all suffer because of the destruction of their potential! Their purpose, which was given to benefit the rest of us, has been aborted! Therefore, when we hear of any person’s death; we should never send to know for whom the bell tolls, because it tolls for all of us!