A Swift glance at our current state of affairs

June 22, 2012 chris
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One of my favorite stories is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. You may recall that Gulliver awakens on a strange island and finds himself secured by rope and surround by a bunch of little people, called the Lilliputians. They all are about six inches in height and, at first, treat Gulliver kindly. Gulliver eventually falls out of favor with the Lilliputians because he refuses to help them enslave their enemies. Gulliver escapes by converting one of the Blefuscuian’s large warships.

On his next adventure, Gulliver finds himself captured by giants. Although the farmer giant treats Gulliver kindly, he does travel the countryside displaying Gulliver to onlookers. Gulliver is placed in the care of the farmer’s daughter and later sold to the queen. At court Gulliver meets the king, and the two men have many discussions regarding the customs and habits of the people from Gulliver’s world. To say that the king is shocked at some of our customs would be an understatement. Gulliver tries to defend his country during these talks with the king. 

One day, a bird picks up the box that is Gulliver’s portable room and drops it into the ocean. A ship spots the floating chest and rescues Gulliver.

It often is said of books that you read them and they read you. I appreciate that literature allows readers to bring their own life lessons to the table when trying to better understand a theme. Emily Dickinson said, “There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away.” In Gulliver’s case the boats take him away but the books transports the reader. I am persuaded that Swift was trying to help us to see things from another man’s perspective when possible. Gulliver certain experienced that first hand. He was literally able to walk a mile in his own shoes. He went from being a giant among the Lilliputians to being a Lilliputian among giants. Those encounters gave him a resource to draw from when dealing with the farmer, the queen, and the king.

I sometimes marvel that with all the history of mankind at our disposal, we still have problems getting along. In my opinion, ethnic cleansing, genocide and poor race relations are examples of our unwillingness or inability to see things from another person’s perspective. I find myself appalled much like the giant king who held court with Gulliver at the austerities of mankind.

But there is hope, hope provided by God who Himself took on the form of man and stepped into our shoes. He was touched by our infirmities and became sin for us so that we could overcome sin. He didn’t do it because we were good, but because He loved us. The scriptures states, “But God showed His love for us, while we were yet sinners, Christ die for us.”

It should not take being captured by Lilliputians or giants to come to our senses. It should take no more than realizing how you would like to be treated and treating your fellow man accordingly. Swift wrote, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”