Luke chapter 18 begins with the parable of the persistent widow… or we might call it the parable of the unjust judge… depending on your point of view. A widow oppressed by an adversary goes to court and petitions the judge persistently for justice, but the judge keeps putting her off. Finally, he says he will “see that she gets justice” just to get her off his back. And Jesus uses this parable to teach… what?
That we should always pray and not give up
“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ ” Luke 18.6-8
Two things: One, God has promised justice for the oppressed. It doesn’t always come when we want it to, but He promised it would come. Waiting for God’s justice to come has been a characteristic of an oppressed people… Witness the Hebrew slaves of the Old Testament, the Jews of the Holocaust, the suffering of the American Indian and immigrants at our borders, and the fate of enslaved Africans and their descendants. It seems like waiting for God’s justice is a necessary prerequisite to the spirituality of the oppressed. Which, as my enslaved ancestors demonstrated, is a more authentic spirituality than that exhibited by oppressors.
But this doesn’t sit well with those of us who are living through oppression. We want justice and we want it now. Which brings me to my second point.
Jesus says God will bring justice and He will bring it quickly. But it just doesn’t seem to come quickly enough to satisfy us here on earth. True and lasting justice requires faith. Not faith in society, or systems, the goodness of humankind or even our individual selves, but faith in God. It is only this faith that helps me keep going after experiencing moments like the Rittenhouse verdict. It reminds me that I can’t expect fairness in this world. I’ve got to look somewhere else for justice.
God cares about the injustice we suffer now and motivates us to work against it, but He will not reach down and fix things… that is our responsibility. God has a long game goal… the redemption of all creation. Many of us feel like if we can get that one guilty verdict, that one acknowledgement of injustice done, then we’ll have turned a corner and things will get better. Well… still waiting. We have to live for something more. I felt vindicated when the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty… but does this herald a change in our society towards racist attitudes and unjust systems? I can’t afford to think that way, because the next “thing” is around the corner.
Jesus goes to the crux of the matter: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” How do we live life every day dealing with oppression, injustice, fear, and hate? I guess I feel like I have to trust God and do justly, as he requires (Micah 6.8). Yes, we hunger and thirst for justice, but we need His grace.
So, we should not give up. As Christians we are to seek justice, but never lose sight of who we serve and the goal of our justice seeking. We should not give up praying for justice, nor working for it… for Justice will surely come.