Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’
“Nevertheless, she persisted.” It would have been easier to give up. It would have been easier to keep quiet. It would have been easier to just walk away. It would have been easier to try a more sympathetic judge. “Nevertheless, she persisted.” The widow was one of the least powerful people in her culture. She relied on men, husbands, uncles, sons, cousins, to give her status. Being described as a “widow” suggests that she had been stripped of all that status—no men defined her, and no men protected her. She wouldn’t have been expected to confront a judge, much less confront him again and again and again, unrelenting in her demand for justice. “Nevertheless (despite cultural norms), she persisted.”
This story is often used to teach the importance of persistence in prayer. Perhaps, however, it is not just about prayer. Perhaps, for those who follow Jesus, it is guide for seeking what is right and just. The widow said, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” She didn’t give up until the judge was worn down, and he ruled for her. This judge was the least likely person to change, being someone who didn’t care about God and God’s laws, yet her persistence led to change and justice.
Being God’s people requires persistence. “Change doesn’t happen overnight.” Often the powers we are confronting are just like the judge—people who don’t have any faith, who care about their own interests, who prefer to ignore the needs of others. So we have to write letters, make phone calls, create rallies, attend meetings, again and again and again. We cannot give up—that’s what the powerful want and expect. We do get tired. We do get frustrated, but we persist. We persist because God wants good for all people. We are called to be the widow, persisting in the face of indifference for those who need justice today.
God of the widow and the judge, give us ears that are open to hear cries for justice. Give us eyes that are open to see the needs around us. Give us voices to speak to power for those who are in need. Give us courage to persist for the right way. Amen.
The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Chaplain, Willen Hospice, Milton Keynes