(…continued) Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) has been a popular novel for almost 300 years. It is the story of a shipwrecked sailor who spent 25 years alone on a small, otherwise uninhabited island in the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is it a great adventure story, but it is written from a Christian point of view, and is filled with parables and meditations on topics such as sinful rebellion, God’s providence, the problem of evil, the power of God’s Word, obedience to God, and the workings of God within a person’s heart to convert and change them. One could get a quite thorough education in the basic teachings of Christianity by reading Robinson Crusoe (I have even considered using it as a textbook for my confirmation class).
One of the most interesting parts of the story is when Crusoe is joined by another man on the island. The man became Crusoe’s servant– “My man Friday,” as he famously called him. Though uninhabited, Crusoe’s island was occasionally visited by natives from another island some a distance away. These natives were violent and vicious, and would bring captives over to the island for ritualized killing and then cannibalism. Crusoe was horrified by the possibility that these natives might find and eat him.
Unwilling to be the next one on the menu, Crusoe planned an attack. With the element of surprise and with the power of his guns, which the natives knew nothing about, he scared them all away; all, that is, except for one prisoner they had not yet killed. Reluctant to kill this man in cold blood, and guessing that the man might be grateful and peaceful if set free, Crusoe chose to let him live. Crusoe was therefore, in many ways, the man’s ‘savior.’
The man was grateful, and responded by choosing to become Crusoe’s loyal and faithful servant for the rest of his life. There was nothing Friday would not do for the man who saved his life.
Friday had much to learn. He had grown up in the same violent and cruel world as his captors, and would have had no qualms about killing another person in cold blood and feasting on them, much as one would an animal. He also had many disgusting habits and mannerisms, things he grew up with and had been taught, and therefore simply took for granted as a part of life. In so many ways he was uncouth, primitive, heartless, and vicious. He had many changes to make.
But Friday was more than happy to do so, even though it proved to be very difficult. He did not even know the English language at first. He had to change in ways he did not understand. He had to resist the basic instincts that he had lived by from birth. He had to live a whole different life, and view the world in an entirely different way. It was a most difficult transformation. But Friday was completely faithful to Crusoe, and would put up with anything, do anything, endure anything, and obey everything; all in gratitude to this man who had saved him from certain death.
The story of Friday is a parable of Christian conversion and obedience. Jesus saved us, like Crusoe saved Friday. We owe everything to Jesus, just as Friday owed everything to Crusoe. Furthermore, the author is making clear to us that we should feel that same debt of gratitude toward Jesus, and in the same way be more than willing to be such a loyal and faithful servant, more than eager to obey and follow in every way. Defoe teaches all this by this story of the conversion of a savage cannibal. Friday was a most unlikely role model, but one whose devotion we would do well to imitate.
“You did not choose me, I chose you,” Jesus said. Friday did not chose to be captured and he could not have chosen to be saved. But saved he was, and then he did everything he could to make the most of his salvation. We do not choose to be born in sin, but we can chose to resist it. We could not have chosen our salvation. Jesus chose to save us, but now we can make the most of our salvation by seeking out every way possible to obey Jesus and live the life he intended for us.
James 2:5 — Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Colossians 3:12 — Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
1 Peter 2:9-10 — But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
PRAYER BASED ON MARTIN LUTHER’S CATECHISM EXPLANATION TO THE FIRST ARTICLE OF THE APOSTLE’S CREED:
O God, I believe that you have created me and all that exists; that you have given me my body and soul, with all their powers. You provide me with food and clothing, home and family, daily work, and all that I need from day to day. You also protect me in time of danger and guard me from all evil. Help me to remember that all this is done out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, even though I do not deserve it. For all this it is my duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey you. Help me to do this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.