Island Mentality vs. Continental Outlook:

Google ‘examples of heroism’ and prepare yourself to be enthralled. Story after story of human kindness describe a nobility of human character we often fail to see on a daily basis. It is heartwarming to hear them.

Where does heroism come from? What makes people step out of their own small worlds and risk life and limb for another? Merriam-Webster says heroism is, “heroic conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end.” Another source says it is, “great bravery”. We all know it as a selfless act that puts the welfare of another being above one’s own interests. It is an involvement in the life of humankind that exceeds the common self-interested mentality of our usual daily lives.

Seventeenth century English poet John Donne wrote of the source of it in his “Meditation 17, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”. You may recognize more than one idiom in the text:

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 Apostle Paul goes even further. In the fourteenth chapter of Romans, Paul describes a crossroads that divides ‘island mentality’ from a ‘continental outlook’ not only in societal terms (between people) but also in spiritual terms (between people and God).

“For none of us lives to himself alone,” explains Paul. “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” That’s extreme. That kind of thinking could change the entire ebb and flow of a person’s life. We are not an island; we are not beings left adrift to sort life out on our own or to grasp at in self-absorbed obsession; nor are we even capable of wisely using this amazing gift of living. God is imminent; He desires to be intimately involved in our lives, empowering us to fulfill the high purpose and noble end He sees far better than we. And how would that look in everyday life?

“Let us therefore, “ Paul directs, “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” He’s talking about how we extend our connectedness with God into our connectedness with others, primarily with other believers but also with all of humankind. We are not to live as islands. We are not to see ourselves as separate entities, each on our own earth-fixed heaven-bound path. And we are not to pass judgment on one another regarding issues that are not core to our beliefs. The church has had enough bad press regarding historical issues of divisiveness. Jesus Christ, our Head, modeled heroism by coming like a knight in shining armour to our rescue, bearing the brunt and full weight of our predicament. Making a way for us to come back home to the God and Father of our souls was an act of heroic proportions on Jesus’ part. He calls us to allow His outlook on life to flood through our being. Living and belonging to God means turning away from island mentality. It means drawing from the strength of the Rock of Ages and making every possible effort to build up others, bringing them to participate in the great Continent of God’s love. That’s heroism on a daily, even minute-by-minute basis. That’s the crossroads Jesus calls us to walk through.

(Photo Credit: “Redningssvoemmere” by heb@Wikimedia Commons (mail) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –


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