‘One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”’ Luke 18:1-8 (New Living Translation)
It almost sounds as if Jesus is coaching us to be persistent to the point of annoying when it comes to our prayers for justice…
‘Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’ He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice – otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black and blue by her pounding.’”
Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”’ (The Message)
Now, there’s a weighty question… How much of that kind of persistent, stubborn faith will Jesus find on the earth when He returns?
During this Lenten season we have made a concentrated effort to take Jesus’ teaching literally. This isn’t always how we read the words of Jesus – for the purpose of actually doing what He says – and this is one of those texts that is easy to pay lip service to, but not so easy to put into practice.
First of all, I have to admit that I have a hard time comparing our righteous God to a sleazy judge. They have nothing in common! The judge in Jesus’ story is cold, hard-hearted and uncaring. The only reason he even gives the widow a second glance is because she won’t get off his back; her unrelenting pleas getting underneath his skin to the point that he would do anything to shut her up!
This story makes me squirm a bit, but maybe that’s the point.
Maybe I’m squirming because this idea of God-as-Judge is one that stretches my understanding of who God is and what that consequently says about me.
Maybe I’m squirming because I’ve been bugged to the point of annoyance by people who, like the widow, just won’t back off or let go.
Maybe I’m squirming because, if I understand what Jesus is saying here, I don’t qualify as one who has persistent faith if that faith is measured by my relentlessness in prayer for the relief and justice of others.
I haven’t fully developed the sacred discipline of stubbornness.
In fact, I still see stubbornness of any kind as a character flaw.
And I’m so self-focused! When I do pray consistently for something that I’m passionate about, how many times is that a passion for justice to be rendered or for people to be released from the tyranny of their enemies?
There is an organization I’ve recently become more aware of that is seemingly built upon these very words of Jesus. International Justice Mission ‘seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law.’ This is their mission. They are a non-sectarian Christian organization staffed with lawyers and advocates and prayer warriors whose hearts are in a constant posture of prayer on behalf of those whose lives are consumed by others.
Sex trafficking. Forced labor slavery. Illegal property seizure. Police brutality. Sexual violence.
Justice for the victims of these criminal activities is the mission of IJM. But it isn’t just the organization’s mission that has captured my attention today: it’s the people who work there.
‘In preparation for the day ahead, IJM employees begin work with 30 minutes of silence and solitude. Then, at 11:00 a.m., employees gather daily to pray corporately for the needs of our clients and the work we are seeking to accomplish.’
Every day. Every employee. An entire organization of faith-filled believers who are developing the sacred discipline of stubbornness.
Not only do they pray for the justice of others, but they follow up those prayers with feet on the pavement – entering courtrooms, approaching judges and relentlessly pursuing the protection of the widows and the children and the elderly and the outcast. Using every legal means available by which to achieve justice for the least of these. Enabled by a just and righteous God who has promised to stick up for them and not to drag His holy feet.
Jesus says that we should pray consistently and never, ever give up on God. Why? Because God comes to our rescue. Quickly.
Our faithful, stubborn prayers do not fall on deaf ears.
We need to jump all over that promise, my friends!
It could literally change our lives.