Sometimes Jesus’ parables are hard to understand, but the one he tells of a persistent widow at the beginning of Luke 18 should not be. And it should not be difficult to understand because Luke tells us why Jesus told the parable. Luke wrote: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” So there you have it. If you read Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow and come up with a different “moral to the story,” I'm pretty confident you’re not reading it right.
I bring up Luke’s summary of Jesus’ parable because of an interaction I had with a man today. I first met him probably four years ago. We have gone to numerous lunches, but in terms of conversations about God or Jesus or the Bible I have never gotten much traction. This week as I was trying to fill in a couple of last-minute cancellations, I wondered whether it was worth it to reach out to him again, or whether I should turn my focus elsewhere. Lunch answered that question.
After taking our seats in a small, lunch-time dive, it took less than five minutes for my friend to bring up a question about the purpose of life. In no time, we were talking about God and how we can know he exists. Then our conversation took us to Jesus and his sacrifice for us and the difference he can make in our lives. Finally, we concluded by talking about the Bible and agreed to read Luke’s gospel and get together to discuss what we are reading.
And to think I was just about to give up on this man.
Sometimes people ask me when it is time move on from an effort to reach out to someone. I usually say that even if there is a time that we should move on, it is probably way further down the road than we think. Today, I needed to listen to my own advice. Certainly, there are times when God sets the table and I am able to go from 0 to 60 with someone in a first meeting or two, but sometimes it takes years of cultivating a relationship before there is a readiness to talk meaningfully about God things. The question is will I persist.
If you are reading this as a Christian, my guess is there is someone in your life that you hope will see Jesus for who he is. You’ve tried to further conversation personally or invited him or her to this or that gathering to explore Christ. And nothing seems to have come of it. It’s just at these times that you can walk away. But maybe, like me, that's just the time you need to make one more call and set up one more lunch.
Some people ask me what I do with Search. Sometimes it's just about praying and not giving up.
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions.