Shut It Down

Luke 18: 1-3 Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’

4-5 “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’”

6-8 Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”


We are seeing more now than our nation has in half a century, an unrest that is erupting in cities across the United States as people who have been too long forgotten are starting to rise up and speak in one voice a cry that speaks both an ancient truth, and a modern reality, “Black Lives Matter”. But as protests are emerging in places previously unheralded as Ferguson, Missouri and places infamous as New York City and West Baltimore, Maryland protest has emerged as more than speech, it has taken the form of destruction of property and in times more recently, the injury of the very police forces whose members have continued to kill people in the streets and in the back of police cars with no cause and little regard for life. As people are trying to make sense of what is unfolded, we have heard everyone from political officials to news pundits and from police officers to pastors talk about the two protest groups. The one is the “peaceful protesters, those who are coming together to chant and march and express their disagreement with the system as it is. Everyone applauds this group. They are the spirit of democracy, their visible leaders become celebrities on social media, and occasionally on mainstream media as well. In a time when we long for heroes whose humanity is as plain as their courage, these, mostly young people are stepping into that space with a remarkable charisma. The “other”  protest group has been called agitators, criminals, and opportunists. Their words are not celebrated, in fact they are not even remembered. It is their actions we remember, and overwhelmingly condemn. These are the ones who burned the QuikTrip in Missouri and the CVS in Maryland. These are the ones who have thrown rocks at the windows of businesses and police cars, and even at police. These are the ones from whom any leader or activist who is connected to money bends over backwards to create distance. Protest can be celebrated as long as it is safe, non-intrusive, and most importantly non-violent. This, is after all the lesson we learn from the patron saint of protest, Martin Luther King Jr. and from Jesus, is it not?

This text in Luke offers what I believe is a non-traditional glimpse into the value system of Jesus. Luke sets certain interpretative parameters on this text in his editorial comment about this parable being about prayer (1). It is therefore both easy and understandable to follow the Occam’s Razor theory of Biblical interpretation and say that this parable is, indeed about, and only about prayer. However I want to lift up what I believe are parallel and non-contradictory truths that can be mined out of the text that speak to the protest moment we are in now.

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