We Persist: A Reflection by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
18 Then Jesus[a] told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Dear Siblings in Christ,
Greetings in the hope that is ours in the gospel.
By now you know Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all the charges stemming from the night the seventeen-year-old violated curfew and took an AR-15 to a protest. During that protest, he shot three men, killing two. He claimed the violence was in self-defense. The protest was in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot in the back multiple times, leaving him paralyzed.
Many of you have been reflecting on the verdict yesterday. I have been in prayer and perplexed reflection. I come to you today to offer a pastoral word as part of our praxis that must bend toward justice.
Mr. Rittenhouse may have been acquitted by a jury of his peers, but we must not confuse this with moral exoneration for bringing a loaded AR-15 to a protest and helping to create the conditions that led to a loss of life. In the 2016 Book of Resolutions, we are reminded that Jesus called his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and “we call upon United Methodists to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context (para. 3428).” Yet, more deeply, this tragedy is about more than gun violence.
Our systems are not designed to deliver a common good that reflects equity and God’s dream of shalom. Our systems deliver unequal health outcomes, education outcomes, economic outcomes, and justice outcomes, and that was being protested. This verdict increases the likelihood of vigilante justice which exacerbates the harm of unequal justice.
In Luke 18:1-8, “Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” In that local context there was a judge who did not respect God or people. In telling this parable, Jesus centers a woman whose voice breaks the culture of silence that shields broken justice. Jesus centers the voice that does not have an advocate in the delivery of justice. For those who are bystanders in the parable, and perhaps for many of us, the first casualty of injustice is that we no longer imagine God’s newness is possible. We forget God can break into our moments with justice and mercy. It is the widow’s persistent cry for justice that embarrasses the judge into delivering the integrity owed to her. The widow’s speech and action remind the world how far we are from God’s Shalom--until the truth becomes too painful to deny. Persistence does not give up the legitimacy of justice because it has not yet been delivered. The widow does not hand over her moral compass in resignation. Her speech and action persist until a failed system speaks God’s agency.
The passage continues with some pointed questions for the disciples: “will not God grant justice,” and, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Not only would our speech and action pester the world for Shalom, but we must also create our own systems that embarrass the world’s inequity. We must also persist in our own house until we create our own systems of equity so that the Son of Man finds us faithful. What we can we do? Pray and not lose heart. Persist with speech and action that boldly hopes in God’s capacity for newness. Create systems with the hopeful imagination of the prophets who looked for a day that weapons would become farm implements and we would not hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain. We must not relinquish the hope that we have in the gospel of God.
I am praying for the people of Kenosha, for systems to increase justice, and for our own advance of racial justice and radical inclusion as we make disciples for the transformation of the world. I appreciate your faithfulness and persistence. In Christ, we persist. Thank you for your ministry.
In the hope of Christ,
Bishop Hee- Soo Jung