Luke 18:1-8 Jesus told his disciples 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?"
Sometimes, the Gospels play around with the reader. There are cryptic sayings, unclear stories, and bizarre characters. However, I don't think this story, this teaching, could confuse any of us. There are no doubt persistent cries for justice upon this earth, and our widow demonstrates the persistence cries for justice necessitate. Some are afraid that God might be equated with the judge, but this is not the case. The main character of this story is not the man, the judge, or God. Indeed, the main character of this story is the widow, the one who pleads for justice.
Yet, this story can be difficult to hear. We are told that God will grant justice to those chosen ones that cry to God day and night. Immediately, we wonder, "Who are the chosen ones?" We might be crying day and night for justice, but we abandon hope thinking we might not be one of the chosen ones. This text could be a slippery slope, for we could assume that there are those that are chosen and those that are left to suffer in the chains of injustice. We allow that possibility, that fear that we are not chosen, dry our tears away.
But, there are no tears of injustice cried unseen or unheard. The chosen ones are those which seek justice, and those which live within injustice. Injustice has many faces. We cannot identify them all readily, or easily. While we might fight against injustice we find ourselves playing a role in the drama we call systematic injustice. There are those in our society, and in this world, that live within generational injustice and oppression. There are those that have accepted injustice as their way of life, never wavering from understanding their plight. Indeed, their tear ducts have dried.
Our prayers and petitions, our lives, are not lived meaninglessly. When throw our prayers skyward in an effort to see the divine hand meddle within our lives. We call upon God's power to so reach a hand down and swipe away the injustice, and wipe away our tears. Yet, how many of us have offered prayer after prayer with not so much as a murmur in return? How many of us have called upon God in our darkest hour, the midnight hour, only to find that there would be no response? We struggle with question of why do some live luxuriously while others toil day and night for the best of worst circumstances. We find ourselves, often, in the widow's place. We find ourselves petitioning the judge to make things right, yet we so often receive no response.
My humble suggestion is that the chosen ones cannot, at times weep, for their tears have passed. They can no longer hold their face in their hands while tears trickle down their arms. They have cried themselves sick knowing that no hope lingers. Their story is not the story of the widow, who found justice. Their story is the one that petitions night and day, yet finds no relief. When hope might display itself it is only momentary, for they realize the indescribable pain hope brings.
There are those of us that live in places of privilege. I am white, male, straight, middle-class, educated. In our society injustice has not greeted me. It would be prideful and malicious to assume that I can understand the plight of the oppressed. But, I have offered the prayer met with no response. I pray for the injustices of this world to end, but they do not. In my privilege, I am granted the power to bear the tears of those that can no longer cry. I can bear those tears in the work of justice. The language of empowerment falls away, for the paternalism that brings only further reinforces the "lack" within people.
The challenge of justice is transformational. We cannot proclaim a charge to empower, but a charge to be transformed. Those in privilege, that sit on the judge's bench, must be transformed. Their privilege is not something they can forsake, but it can be transformed into a power that joins together. In the act of transformation we are made into the kingdom of God. We share the tears, for there are plenty to go around.
Jesus didn't say that the justice would be relieved quickly. Jesus didn't proclaim that the cries for justice would be met immediately, or easily. Sometimes the response God gives is whispered in the ears of those that don't look like us, talk like us, or live like us. Perhaps the church's cries for justice are met with responses that aren't at the altar, and don't live in the pulpit. God's whispering might be heard with different ears, and different beliefs. Those that our tradition has excluded, might be those that hear God's whispering. The soothing of tears does neither requires a hand that is consecrated by God with incantations and ritual, nor does it require the forsaking of beloved traditions. Soothing the tears of injustice, and the cries for justice, requires opening our world, the world God created, to see those that have heard a good word, though in different language.
God hasn't stopped speaking, but maybe we just haven't opened our ears to a wider play of voices and characters. Perhaps those off-stage, those that haven't been written into the main cast of characters, have as powerful of lines as those that have always held the limelight. Soothing and wiping the tears of injustice away will require those that do not pray to a cross, meet in a synagogue, or pray in a mosque. The tears of injustice will be soothed when those that won't get near a congregation, and those that won't get away from a congregation, come together in mutual interest of wiping the tears away.