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For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls


You have heard of the book and movie by Hemingway, but “for whom the bell tolls” is actually a line from a book of devotions by John Donne. His writing was influenced by people dying from the plague during an epidemic in the year 1623. Whenever someone died the city bells would ring. Donne imagined laying in a hospital dying of the plague and hearing those bells ring knowing your time was coming soon. Every time they rang he would ask, “who died?” Eventually every time the bells rang he actually felt like a part of him died, or that he moved closer to death. This led Donne to write some very profound 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 Europe is the less, as well as if a prominent part were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or 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. Now this bell tolling softly for another says to me, ‘Thou must die’.


His meaning was that all humanity is in this life together. We all have a stake in the human race. Death impacts all of us, affects all of us. Hebrews 9:27 says it well, “it is appointed for all men to die once and after this comes judgment”. A cure for death also would affect all of us. We all want to be saved from a scary death. We all wonder what is on the other side. In that sense we can all say, “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”. WHAT IF THE BELL DIDN’T TOLL? They eventually cured the plague; what if there was a cure for death altogether? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 that it is actually a good thing that these physical bodies die so we can put on immortality and then we will overcome death. Jesus said in John 11:25, “he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die”. When Jesus comes back we can look forward to a time when, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death” (Rev.21:4).


Can You Un-ring a Bell ?


Lately, I’ve been hearing that saying everywhere I go—you can’t unring a bell. Is that really true? Obviously, it’s meant as imagery to say figuratively that once something is done, you can’t undo it, and you must suffer the consequences. I began thinking of all the different life situations of people I know or stories I’ve read:


You are in high school playing sports and you fail a class so you are off the team—you can’t unring that bell.



In business, a get rich quick scheme requires that you raise money from your family and friends; it was too good to be true, all their money is lost—you can’t unring that bell.


You are married but you fantasize over other women. The lust builds up until you act upon it. Who will ever know? You can’t unring that bell.


You drink a lot, too much really, but promise yourself you will quit, but not tonight. You are stopped and get a DWI. You can’t unring that bell.


You have a recurring health problem so you go to a doctor who does a lot of tests, you are terminally ill—you can’t unring that bell.


Can you ever unring a bell? YES, in eternity, every story, every circumstance can be undone, reversed, atoned for. That is precisely why Jesus Christ died, to unring the bell. Without Christ, the bell has rung! God has given one person that authority to unring bells—His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Will you invite Him in, ask Him to unring all your bells, and trust Jesus alone to do it?


Charlie Taylor

Picture of About the Author: Charlie Taylor
About the Author: Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor grew up in Dallas, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas Business School and went into the commercial real estate business for about twenty years before enrolling in and graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary with honors.

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