“Yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice.” – Luke 18:5 (BSB)
That pesky word “pester” is so interesting. It means to bother. To nag. To bug. Often when it comes to justice, we use less interesting verbs. We “demand” justice, as though those who withhold it are willing to hear our plea. We “love” justice, as though we are on a first date with it.
The widow had probably never been to a community-organizing training. She probably didn’t love justice so much as really just (just?) want it for herself and her trial. She wouldn’t be the kind of person who would demand it, as that would take a sense of power and privilege. She doesn’t seem like the type who gets mad at Bloomingdale’s for a delay in her charge card arriving.
Instead, she bothered and pestered and nagged and bugged the judge. Something in her said her need was justified. Something in her said she was worthy enough to not lose heart. She kept on keeping on. She got up nine times after being knocked down eight.
For those of us weary with well-doing, who have signed too many petitions and worn out too many shoes marching, the word “pester” might be renewing. We might find a way to keep our keepings on and to tend them with tenderness.
Justice for all may not arrive tomorrow. But there was a day when the Sanctuary movement in New York City overwhelmed the phone system of ICE. A man was released from deportation as a result. Pope Francis called for a gaze of serene attentiveness. That’s the peaceful part of just pestering.
Help us to pay attention to those who pester for justice. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her most recent book is I Heart Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.