Jesus respected women who would persist, pray, and persevere. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus blesses women of perseverance, despite men who want women to be quiet. In story after story we see how he engages women in conversation, acknowledges their situations, knowing their persistent perseverance is tied to their faith.
Merriam-Webster defines “persevere” as: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement. The definition of the word persistence is quite similar, but perseverance is a steady determination to overcome ones difficult situation in life. Yes, perseverance is similar to persistence, but deeper. It is persistent, while remaining resilient, logical, calm, and hopeful, pressing toward the goal.
In the parable of the persistent widow, we are shown a woman who actively persevered in her faith. She wasn’t quiet. She persistently reminded the judge, and didn’t wait for him to act. He ignored her, but she spoke up until justice was done.
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).
The judge in this story is often called unjust, but really he is mostly indifferent. He doesn’t care about this widow or her situation. In fact he doesn’t care about humanity or God for that matter. Indifference is a form of injustice.
Indifference looks away when injustice occurs. Perseverance stands up to injustices and indifference. Women throughout history have persevered. Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Leymah Ghowee, and Malala Yousafzai. Persevering in faith for justice, equal rights, education, and respect.
In January, a community organizer left public office with these words, “It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups. There I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change happens only when ordinary people get involved, get engaged.” His final word - “Persevere.”
In our own community of faith, I think of Ann Maxwell. Quiet, resilient, logical, calm, whose quiet advocacy on behalf of widows and widowers was displayed through serving Mobile Meals for more than three decades. Without accolades or attention, nevertheless she persevered in serving the least of these.
As followers of the Way of Jesus, we are called to nothing less. On behalf of the widow and children we must speak up, stand up, persevere against the indifference displayed in the form of budget cuts that would cut off the life-giving nourishment, companionship, and hope that is shared through Meals on Wheels across our land.
Longtime social justice activist and scholar Angela Davis in her lecture, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” says, “Sometimes the future that you imagined to be most dreadful turns out to be the future that compels you to reach down very deeply into your being to uncover reservoirs of strength and perseverance that you had no idea were there.” What reservoirs might each of us hold? May God make them known to us and let it be said of us, “Nevertheless, we persevered.”
God of justice and hope, we seek to be your agents of change in this broken world. Encourage us to be like the persistent widow, through prayers and actions, and to persevere in standing against injustices of all kinds. May our perseverance transform this broken world into one filled with your love.
Posted on Mon, April 3, 2017
by Micah James