Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, (Luke 18:1 NASB)
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8 NASB)
It’s real easy to criticize. Even when there’s nothing gained, no point for the person being criticized, or when the criticism is unfounded, it’s still easy. What’s not so easy is understanding. Sometimes, understanding comes from re-reading, reevaluating, and stopping to think. It takes time for impatient people to understand when criticism is so readily available.
Take the parable of the unjust judge for instance, the reason given for the parable on the front end is persistence in prayer. Yet Jesus says on the back side that God will answer swiftly. If God answers swiftly, why the need for persistence? And before you think this is simple, justice is becoming a hot-button topic in the world, and religious persecution, especially of Christians, is on the rise. Obviously, there are examples of injustice to believers where God did not answer at all, at least not with the justice prayed for.
But it’s not that hard to understand either. In the parable the widow (a disenfranchised person within that culture) was persistent in asking the unjust judge for legal protection. What happens is she wears the judge down. Jesus’ point is that God loves us and doesn’t need to be worn down to answer. On the other hand, the speedy answer of God is justice for those crying out to Him day and night. They were persistent in prayer.
But clearly when people have been persistent, God doesn’t necessarily answer the way they want. Good parents don’t just grant their kids request because they’re persistent and wear them down. Parents who want their kids to shut up might do so a couple of times, but then learn it doesn’t work and actually reinforces the problem you were trying to prevent. God doesn’t give us whatever we want because we want it and persistently ask for it. He gives us what He wants to give us because He loves us and knows what we don’t.
The difficulty here is that justice is something different than a toy, a car, success at work, or a nice house. Justice is something that humans sort of expect or have some sense about when it’s absent. Often justice becomes the coin of our relationship negotiations. And yet it’s something most of us would have difficulty defining clearly. Simply put, justice is receiving the decency due every human being. Justice is present when people are treated with respect regardless of their characteristics. That’s an oversimplification, but I think it’s close enough for our discussion.
Justice is received, not taken. So, we can control what we dispense it to others, but we cannot control what we receive. The penalty for injustice varies, but in general you only get back what you dispense. And I believe that this is one of the primary reasons God teaches us as He does. God is a just God. And yet, to appease His sense of justice, He took our penalty on Himself. As He does so, He also teaches us to follow His pattern in our human relationships. We are to give justice without the expectation of receiving it back. In other words we’re to give justice in exchange for injustice.
The whole point of the parable is to continue in prayer. I think God loves our company more than anything. And the justice we seek is actually already present in Jesus and what He has already accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection. We are justified before God, Maker and Sustainer of the universe. What’s better than that? Persistence in prayer puts us constantly in His presence, and that changes our sense of justice. Mercy becomes the quality people see in us. Mercy gives justice in exchange for injustice. In a sense, we appease the injustice we receive by taking the penalty on ourselves.
So, as I face opponents in what I do for my King, injustice will often be what I receive as part of the deal. My response to those people is supposed to be that mercy I received from my King. The more time I spend in prayer to my King, the more often mercy will be my response. As far as speedy justice from God, I think I have all I need already in Jesus. But I will definitely keep praying for my brothers and sisters in persecution elsewhere. They are legion, and the need is great. Therefore I will need to be persistent on their behalf.
That’s my convoluted view through this particular knothole. What do you see?