We are Losing by Trying to Win

Most people have heard of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, Gulliver's Travels. In it, Gulliver travels from one strange place to another, encountering tiny people, giant people, talking horses, and all kinds of adventures. Most people today think of it as a children's storybook because the scene where he is tied down on a beach by little people who feel threatened by him has made its way into almost every children's cartoon.

But Gulliver's Travels is far from a children's storybook. It is an insightful and often cutting look at human nature. Swift was a careful observer of human behavior and lampooned it mercilessly. Swift was an Irish writer and clergyman and said that he wrote this novel to "vex the world, not divert it."

I think we could use some of that vexing - and could do with some learning from it.

In Gulliver's last adventure, he runs across creatures called "Yahoos." They are nasty creatures who horde shiny rocks and hurl their feces at each other as a form of defense (and offense). They all walk around covered in the filth of it, just scrambling to collect and hide more shiny things. Whoever gets near them gets defiled.

I can't think of a more apt description of my social media feed and the political and social environment of America today. It's like the high school cafeteria during a giant food fight - but people are throwing crap instead of nasty rehydrated mashed potatoes. It seems like a competition to see who can end the day with the better "burn" - an environment of mocking and ridicule.

The problem is that no one ends the day clean. Everyone has stupid people in their camp - and everyone can be stupid at times. And as enlightening as you think your sarcastic insight is, you are just playing for the applause of people who already agree with you while trying to cover those who don't with as much shame as you can before they return the volley. We all go home covered in feces.

We are at a critical point in our cultural journey and I think Christians can lead the way toward health and strength. But the only way to do that is to step away from the crap-fest. There are powerful political forces at work that benefit from the divisions in our society - so the foment our fear and stoke our pride. But we don't have to play along. We don't have to stoop down to pick up and throw the ammunition they are feeding us.

Instead of trying to attack someone's ideas today, try to understand them. Even if you find them ugly and distasteful. You don't have to agree with someone (or respect their ideas) to seek to understand them and to respect them.

Instead of mocking someone's stupidity today by reposing the latest meme (a sure way to entertain those who agree with you and alienate those who don't), laugh at it (or grimace at it). And then remind yourself that there are memes out there that you find offensively oversimplify your thinking or unfairly highlight the behavior or a few and generalize it to the whole (of which you are a part).

Instead of allowing a "root of bitterness" to take root in your heart (Hebrews 12:15) at the people with whom you disagree, seek to see them as God sees all of us: as broken, messed up people desperately in need of grace. Each of us is a "glorious ruin" - creatures made in the image of God but covered in our own selfish ambition and greed for self-glory. Don't allow someone else's ruin (and your pride) to so fill your vision that you refuse to see the glory of the image of God in them too.

Instead of wishing for karma (man, I hope what they deserve), let's truly be people of grace. Let's be so overwhelmed with the grace we have received that there is no room in our hearts for self-righteous judgment of others.

God calls us to something so much better than winning. He calls us to something so much better than defeating. He calls us to leave our "Yahoo" natures behind because He calls us to love. He calls us to grace. He calls us to be people whose hope is unshakable because it is founded on the unfailing love of God.


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