Nevertheless, She Persisted

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Mitch McConnell was probably not setting out to create a viral meme when he gave this explanation for silencing Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor. Within hours, however, “Nevertheless, she persisted” was showing up beneath pictures of Malala Yousafzai, Gabby Giffords, Rosa Parks, and a host of other women who have made a significant impact in spite of barriers, obstacles, and silencing.  “Nevertheless, she persisted,” describes all the people who work for a world that has not yet come into being. Who persevere in the face of set-backs, indifference, hostility, failure, and even bodily harm.

Jesus told a story about a woman who persisted. In the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8), a poor, powerless person persists in nagging a corrupt, powerful person judge to do justice for her. “Grant me justice!” was her repeated demand. The judge finally does grant justice for her case not because he wants to but because her persistence is wearing him out!

Those who have worked in the struggle for justice, equality, and freedom throughout the ages know the truth in this. Martin Luther King, Jr, was arrested over twenty times for protesting. He was the object of several violent attacks, both to his person and his property. He received threatening phone calls, his home was bombed and set afire, and was stabbed. Allan Boesak, the South African minister who has devoted his life to the peaceful end to apartheid although he, too, has been threatened, beaten and jailed, famously said, “When we go before Him, God will ask, ‘Where are your wounds?’” And we will say, “I have no wounds.” And God will ask, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”  Malala Yousafzai persisted in the cause of education for girls and all children despite harassment and threats from the Taliban and even despite being shot point-blank in the head and neck.  Harriett Tubman risked her own freedom to help hundreds of people escape slavery on the Underground Railroad. During her own time as a slave, she endured permanent brain damage and physical health complications from the relentless beatings she suffered at the hands of her masters. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Back to Jesus’ parable. Luke frames the telling of the parable in this way, “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” The early church was tired of waiting for Jesus’ return, weary of working for a Kingdom that had not yet fully come. So Jesus told the story of a widow who persuaded a judge to settle her case justly by sheer force of her persistence and perseverance.  Perhaps you, too, are weary of working for justice that seems too illusive, too far away, too fraught with obstacles. The Talmud instructs. “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”  For the sake of Christ’s kingdom and with His help, nevertheless, we persist.

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