We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. (Romans 14:7)
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
- Chief Seattle
Each summer when I was in high school, our church youth group would take a three-day canoe trip somewhere in the Adirondacks. We would load up tents, sleeping bags, and all the food we would need and paddle into some isolated lake or pond and set up camp for two nights. During the day, we would swim, fish, and paddle. Evenings would be s’mores and deep discussions or sing-alongs.
One year we did a route known as the Seven Carries. Why is it called the Seven Carries? Because there were seven portages between lakes where we had to carry the canoes and all of our gear overland. Some of these portages were rather long and because we did not pack light, it meant multiple trips.
After a long day of canoeing and carrying, we set up camp on Bear Pond. This is a beautiful setting deep in the Adirondacks and we had it all to ourselves. At the time, however, there was one downside to Bear Pond. It was dead. There were no fish, no plant growth, no life at all. Bear Pond had been rendered lifeless by Acid Rain.
Acid Rain was the result of pollution from manufacturing plants in the mid-west. The pollutants rose up into the atmosphere and were concentrated before falling as acid rain in places like upstate New York. It is an example of the great web of life we learned about in high school biology class. Touch a thread of the web in one place and the effects are felt throughout.
We are likewise connected, not just to creation but to one another as well. Paul is writing to a community in Rome that was divided between those who held fast to the laws of the Torah and those who believed they were liberated from those laws by Jesus Christ. Paul does not take sides but rather reminds both sides that what they do and say affects everyone. He reminds them of their connectedness in Jesus Christ and their place in the great web of life.
Simon & Garfunkel tried to argue that one could be a rock or an island – that these bonds between us could be ignored or severed. But we are not isolated masses of being. We are connected to one another. What I do does have an affect on you and what you do affects me. May we live our lives in such ways that those affects are as life-giving, life-affirming, and life-loving to one another as possible.
With all respect to Paul Simon, I am NOT a rock.