What does faith require of us, as the daughters of God?
Ultimately, all believers must answer this question. While we understand that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen; faith also requires our active participation and buy-in, as we navigate the world in which we must live. Faith involves stepping out of our comfort zones, oftentimes away from the places and spaces we know we can control, into the unfamiliar places and spaces where God often leads us.
If faith means being vulnerable to the movement of God; then the actions of sovereignty, surrender, and submission play an important part in the demonstration of our faith to others and even to ourselves. Each of these elements involves trusting in God and trusting in ourselves, as we allow our faith to root, grow, and mature.
As we consider the action of sovereignty, surrender, and submission for the story of the widow and the judge found in Luke 18: 1-8; a working definition of the terms are helpful. Godly surrender and submission share the qualities of yielding to a power greater than ourselves. Sovereignty is a standout in this triad, as this word is often associated with royalty, and those who are endowed with governmental authority and power over others. Yet, sovereignty is so much more than this. Sovereignty is given to us by our Creator; for each one of us is created as a special entity of God; with purpose, agency, and destiny, as a part of our spiritual DNA. Sovereignty, then, becomes the pursuit and cultivation of our own individual voice and power – the unfolding and the embracing of our personal spiritual energy directed towards who we will become and the unique contributions we will make in God’s world.
Sovereignty is also connected (as we see in additional women’s narratives of Scripture) to surrender and submission. There will be times when The Spirit tells us which to choose. To use a popular country western musical association: “You got to know when to hold them (sovereignty), know when to fold them (submission), know when to walk away – know when to run (surrender).” These three are connected to our purpose, destiny, and calling. All three elements are essential parts of our faith walk and spiritual essence, as women who know and love the Lord.
And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor………………………………………………….
Luke 18: 1-8</strong
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying: “Give me legal protection from my opponent. For awhile he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out**. And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said: “now, will not God bring out justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
The evangelist Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, wrote more about women and their relationships to Jesus and the church, than any other of the gospel writers. Luke was particularly concerned for the underdog: children, widows, women, the poor, the sick, and those who were deemed as powerless in society. The four gospel accounts present a profile of Jesus as Messiah, Teacher, Priest and Prophet; however, Luke emphasized Jesus’ concerns for those whose rights and privileges were forgotten or oppressed by the rich and the powerful. It is obvious that Luke felt the pursuit of justice must be an obligation for the people of God. Jesus’ commitment towards justice is boldly apparent in Luke’s gospel, and for Jesus, justice is service AND WORSHIP!
Biblical justice as defined by Jesus: (The Nazareth Manifesto – Luke 4:16-21)
In the parable of the widow and the judge, Jesus chooses a woman (a widow) to invoke the understanding of who God is and what God requires – JUSTICE!
Widows have a special place in the prophetic voice of Scripture. (James 1:27; Psalms 68:5; Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 49:11).
If no one else will take care of widows, God certainly will. The condition of the impoverished and the oppressed violates God’s intentions for the world, and this parable demonstrates to its hearers that grinding poverty is an unacceptable evil. God’s bias or “preferential option” for the poor was/ is Jesus’ mission and message. In the perennial struggle for social justice, in which the scales always seem tipped towards the side of the wealthy and powerful; God evens the balance by taking the side of the poor and the defenseless.
In this Lukan parable, where we expect to see a helpless widow flailing against the tyrannical power of a corrupt judge; instead, we encounter a feisty warrior woman armed and ready for battle. The parable is as much about a solo woman who fights for her rights against a corrupt, cruel, and atheist judge, as it is about the constructs of faith, justice, and salvation.
“The parable reverses the dynamics of power by pointing out the judge’s vulnerability and the woman’s strength: persistence.” (“Women in Scripture’ – Carol Meyers, pg. 449)
This widow comes against a power that is supposed to win; but her persistent faith informs her otherwise. Her sovereignty informs her that fighting for her rights (most likely financial or property driven) is her only option. Resignation has no place in her life! She ignores the conventions of the day, which tell her to stay in her place and accept her fate. She fully understands the arrogance, privilege, and disregard, which the judge has for her status, as a widow and a “foreigner.” The judge refuses to hear her case because he cares nothing for her plight; he cares nothing for justice; and he cares nothing for God. She is supposed to go away in resignation, feeling powerless and hopeless. Yet, we see the very opposite in this woman, who refuses to take “No” for an answer. She steps into the ring with the unjust judge, knowing the odds are stacked against her: she is an alien (Jewish), she is a woman, and she is a widow. Nothing but an internal power of faith, surrender and submission to God’s will tells her she can win. She fights alone; but her sovereignty informs her that she cannot change her circumstances by doing what is comfortable and convenient.
The widow steps into the arena of the judge and God steps in the arena with her. Stepping out on faith for her means being vulnerable to the movement of God. Here is where we see the demonstrate of the intersection between sovereignty, submission, and surrender. For this woman, it would have been easier to give up and accept her circumstances; yet, she submits to the will of God and fights back instead. By surrendering her fear for faith and hope, she is endowed with the courage she needs to confront the injustice of the corrupt judge, and change her own situation.
The weapons the judge will use against her are carnal; but no carnal weapons formed against her shall NOT prosper, because she serves a God with supernatural power and authority. With dogged persistence and confident sovereignty, this widow literally gives the judge a black eye.*** She knocks down the structures of oppression and injustice, which the judge attempts to use to keep her from her destiny. She is a social activist and she is a courageous force against the judicial power and authority of a man who would present himself as infallible. This widow knows different. She knows a power that has sustained her, kept her, and assures her of victory. This is why the widow does not hesitate to take on the fight. All she can do is win, no matter what!!!!
Jesus presents the parable to the hearers to encourage those who would shrink away from fighting against injustice on behalf of the powerless. Jesus also speaks to all of us who would deny justice to those who are in need of it.
Ultimately, the widow teaches us that courage is not the complete absence of fear; but instead, courage is using God’s power connecting to our own. She also teaches us, as women, oftentimes in the fight of our lives, that embracing our sovereignty will cost us, because we must first shed the garments of resignation, fear, and mediocrity. God assists the widow, and us, to run towards our challenges, instead of running away from them. To be sovereign is to trust God, and move in your own truth; submitting and surrendering to the will of God, and knowing that God will be with you, even when you must fight alone.
**in Greek this phrase is translated as “slap, strike/blackened under the eye. The term is drawn from the boxing arena (The New Interpreters Bible – a Commentary in 12 volumes)
The widow’s faith in the justice of God created a new reality for her. Because she was willing to fight with faith, on behalf of justice, God empowered her to win. This narrative teaches us that those who bear God’s image must be agents of justice and care for those whom the world cares nothing for. Jesus demonstrates to the hearers of this parable that God’s intention for humanity is to live in shalom (peace, prosperity, wholeness, health, integration, and balance). Without justice, shalom is unreachable. We must work for shalom, even when it seems impossible. Our faith should inform us that nothing is too impossible with God.
Questions & considerations
Why is the cultivation of sovereignty important for women?
How does this parable speak to you and your situation with unjust circumstances?
Why is sovereignty, submission, and surrender important to our faith walk?
What can we do, as individuals and collectively, to fight for justice in our own venues?
“Believe in your own voice. You are the woman the world has been waiting for.” Barbara Streisand
“Do the work your soul must have.” – Katie Geneva Cannon
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” Lena Horne
“The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not explain herself.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
OUR SENDING PRAYER
Lord come to me, my door is open.
Grant to your daughters to be set afire with Your love,
To be strengthened by Your power,
To be illuminated by Your Spirit,
To be filled by Your grace
And to go forward into our futures by Your help.
In the matchless, mighty, magnificent name of Jesus,
Our Messiah and our Savior we pray, Amen!
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