There is something disquieting about this parable of the unrighteous judge and/ or forceful widow (Luke 18: 1- 8). Is Jesus really portraying God as an aloof deity who cares about no one or anything except his own peace and quiet? Or, more disturbingly, does God do the right thing only because someone dared to shout loud enough and long enough!
Jesus may have wanted to teach the disciples about the importance of prayer and not losing heart, but if this is an image of the God on the other side of the prayer and justice equation, then I am already losing heart. in fact, I might as well give up now. I am held by the grace of God who is love, nothing more, nothing less; and one of the things about grace is that it is never dependant on me, only ever God.
Once the kingdom of God is dependent on my battering the gates of the Kingdom to disturb a God to action who is only interested in peace and quiet, then the kingdom is in trouble. The world is in trouble. I am in trouble!
If the transformation of the world is singularly influenced by my loud and long efforts alone, then I already feel the weight of guilt at not being able to do enough; the weight of shame for failing through weakness; and the weight of despair for failing through inadequacy.
There again, if the story is trying to indicate a contrast between a tardy judge and the speed of a just God, I have a further difficulty. The points at issue do not appear to be an uncertainty in the correctness of the widow’s complaint or the decision in favour of her. The issue is singularly that the judge has not been bothered about whether justice has been carried out. It is a question of care, effort and following through. The judgement has been made but the judge does not appear to care whether the victim is vindicated and ever receives the just settlement she deserves. Does God really not care if a victim is left without justice? Will there really be no following through?
It could seem that way because, as I perceive the world, there appears to be many people who have been crying out to the Lord forever and an age for deliverance and their rightful justice.
I cannot begin to imagine suggesting to them they have not yet received because they have not been as forcefully persistent and vocally demanding as the widow. Of telling them, they do not have because they have been found wanting in effort and persistence.
To shout long enough and loud enough requires a particular focus, energy and motivation. If truth be told, there are days when I look at what is happening in the world around me, and in my own country, and despair, cynicism and scepticism more often seem to invade my heart instead.
This is where prayer can change life. While grace is gift, prayer is action. It is the moment of opening up to receive grace; of rediscovering focus, energy and motivation in Christ; of accepting the call to hear all those who cry out to the Lord; and of accompanying them in their rightful demands as the ears, hands and feet of God, the Body of Christ.
May this be the faith he finds in me when he comes again… the faith through which my heart is transformed, the peace and quiet of the world disturbed and justice delivered for all who suffer.
Amen; Lord, have mercy…