Years ago when I was…years old, I read Robinson Crusoe. Like most people, the first thing I would think of thereafter when I thought of the story was “Friday.” Friday, was the name given to the man Crusoe met on the island who became, not just his servant, but also his dear companion.
Crusoe had been shipwrecked on his island for over twenty-five years when Friday showed up. On my re-reading of this, I was surprised since I’d always thought it happened immediately after he saw that footprint. To my recollection, the appearance of that footprint had happened earlier in the story as well.
Going into the details of how Crusoe and Friday came together might be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there.
Well, here I am reading and re-reading some of what are called children’s classics and discovering content of which I don’t believe a child would take any notice. Unless they were the most astute of children. Numerous ideas of what it would be like “stranded on a desert island” come to light in the story.
But as a Christ follower, I also picked up ideas for living my own life and carrying the message of the Kingdom.
I have to admit that, since I knew a “Friday” was coming, I was impatient for his appearance. Then again, in the meantime, I was learning just how stressful and difficult a life Crusoe led in the couple of decades he lived alone. He learned how to build a home for himself against the elements, find sources of food, and invent ways to cook and preserve his food. Even keeping busy with the basics of maintaining food and shelter, doesn’t negate his loneliness and despair.
Aside from his own, he never heard another voice speak until he caught and tamed a parrot–Poll–and taught it to repeat his name and a few sentences.
So far, I fear I haven’t presented much of a defense for reading this old classic written in a style some would call difficult to read. “I’ll watch the movie,” some will say. “That’s good enough, right?”
But last night as I was reading, Crusoe’s faith in God, which had previously been as dashed to bits as the ship he was wrecked in, comes to the forefront. Friday is one of a tribe of cannibals and doesn’t understand fully what Crusoe is trying to teach him about God, the devil and evil. Crusoe believes he can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, help Friday to see Jesus as the redeemer and, as he puts it, “receive the light of the knowledge of God in Christ.”
Their conversations seem comical. However, when seen from Friday’s point of view, one understands. These ideas are foreign to him.
‘Well,’ says Friday, ‘but you say God is so strong, so great; is He not much strong, much might as the devil?’ ‘Yes, yes,’ says I, ‘Friday, God is stronger than the devil; God is above the devil, and therefore we pray to God to tread him down under our feet, and enable us to resist his temptation, and quench his fiery darts.’ ‘But,’ says he again, ‘if God much strong, much might as the devil, why God no kill the devil, so make him no more do wicked?’
Crusoe had been fortunate to find a Bible on board the wrecked ship right away and studied it regularly after some time had passed on the island. With time, through sharing the gospel and his personal studies, Crusoe was able to explain in a way Friday could understand. He soon became what Crusoe called a Christian ‘much better than I.’
My point in telling this (wondered if I had a point, eh?) is that I became acutely aware of the process of evangelism with a person who’s never heard of the one true God and Jesus Christ. One would have to start from scratch, so to speak. Most of us have an advantage in that the people we come into contact with have at least heard of God and Jesus.
Crusoe and Friday formed a relationship of trust first. Certainly, Friday saw himself in a position of servitude because the other had saved his life. But over time, the two became companions. That gave Crusoe an opportunity to be open with Friday about God’s truth and his own beliefs.
Seeing Friday’s simple and unguarded questions, I can understand how Christianity might seem difficult to believe. Indeed, as Crusoe knew, it would take the help of the Holy Spirit to bring Friday to a point of receiving Christ as his redeemer.
Friday’s questions about evil and the devil echo some of the same questions we have, i.e., “If God is all-powerful, why is there evil at all?”
I like to think that, in reading fiction, a book has at least one redeeming feature. I have not always found it to be true. Sometimes I finish a book and cannot for the life of me, even a month later, tell you the basic premise of the story.
But with this one, I’m glad I returned to this so-called children’s classic. I have a greater appreciation for missions work performed in all areas of the world. What experience or knowledge had the author, Daniel Defoe, with spreading the gospel? Did he have friends or people in his church who were missionaries? What spurred him to include this aspect of the relationship between a castaway and a savage?
For whatever reasons, these little discoveries are why I continue to read fiction. Currently I’m on an adventure on a deserted island–with two men and their animals–and enjoying it immensely.
For the second time.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”