Can I Get a Witness?

At a recent meeting with Jesuits I was asked a great question: If you could only save three passages of Scripture, which would you select?

I walked around Dublin after this conversation, mulling over different texts.

I know most people these days have only a vague knowledge of the bible. But one of the great surprises of my life has been discovering just how fascinating and beautiful are the texts that make up the Christian Scriptures.

As I mulled it over, one text rose to the surface that I have never preached on, never really read into, never reflected on in any great detail. In Luke 18, Jesus tells a funny short story that come to be known as “The Parable of the Persistent Widow“. It’s only 10 sentences long, so it is worth reading. But it basically tells a story about a judge who looked out only for himself who eventually was nagged into doing the right thing by an otherwise powerless widow who had the truth on her side.

With Jesus’ customary efficiency of words, he paints a picture of the world as we all know it exists for many people. Those who do not have the resources to secure competent legal counsel are left powerless before the self-satisfied forces of corruption and injustice. This widow has neither money nor resources. But she overcomes this well-educated and wealthy opponent through the power of never giving up.

She becomes such an annoyance to the judge that it becomes easier for him to do the right thing than be worn out by her complaints. Faced with corruption she does not dream of utopian revolution. She just holds on to the truth and assails him with it. She is not seeking compensation. She cannot be bought off. All she wants is the truth to be declared, justice to be restored, and she won’t stop until she sees that come to fruition.

I think this is Jesus’ description of how people of faith should address the State. The widow does not try to convert the judge. She does not aim at his repentance and conversion. She just insists that he fulfill the noble calling made of him – to judge rightly. She does it tirelessly and cleverly, with a clear goal in mind.

She prevails. Justice is done.

But there is no suggestion that the judge forsakes his indolent individualism. This one case, however small it might seem, is important. The way that laws and the way that every State functions is to make precedent from such judgements. We push back on the injustice that surrounds us, not with guns or ideology, but with the patient and undaunted focus on the truth. Bearing witness is all that is expected of us. k

So my friend asked this great question about which part of the bible I would save and I think I would save this story so I would always have a reminder that we do not need perfection in every single thing. Bearing witness to the things that we have discovered are deep down true is the political vocation of the Christian.