The Supreme Court’s ruling this week on abortion has disappointed pro-life supporters across the country. The decision in June Medical Services perpetuates Roe v. Wade, a ruling which, as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his June Medical Services dissent, “created the right to abortion out of whole cloth, without a shred of support from the Constitution’s text.”
In addition, its deciding vote was cast by Chief Justice John Roberts on the basis of Stare decisis (“to stand by things decided”), claiming that an earlier decision set a precedent he was forced to uphold. This despite his dissent in Janus v. AFSCHME and Knick v. Township of Scott and the fact that the court has overturned more than 300 of its own cases through 2018.
Pro-life supporters are understandably grieved by a ruling that will allow more preborn babies to die. We are convinced by Scripture that life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Jeremiah 1:5). For unelected justices to discover a right to abortion in the Constitution and then continually overturn legislation enacted by elected representatives that would limit this horrendous practice is deeply tragic.
In this context, Jesus’ parable about the unjust judge paradoxically offers empowering hope.
Luke 18 tells the story: “In a certain city, there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man” (v. 2). We know from the setting, that this was not a Jewish judge, since Jewish legal claims were typically directed to the priest and only to their courts when necessary. A three-judge panel was then appointed: one for the plaintiff, one for the defendant, and one who was neutral. Such judges were bound by strict laws against graft, bribery, and corruption (cf. Exodus 23:8; Leviticus 19:15).
By contrast, Roman judges could accept bribes, hand down corrupt decisions, and otherwise act out of personal greed with no accountability. As the judge in Jesus’ story says, “I neither fear God nor respect man” (v. 4). They would give “justice” to those who could afford to bribe them or possessed cultural status and leverage.
The plaintiff standing before this judge possessed neither: “There was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary'” (v. 3). She had no means to bribe or threaten the judge, so “for a while, he refused” (v. 4).
However, the widow kept coming to him so persistently, that finally, he decided, “I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming” (v. 5).
Here’s what many misunderstand about Jesus’ parable. It’s easy to conclude that God is the unjust judge, an arbiter who must be persuaded through our persistence to do what he would not otherwise do. In fact, just the opposite is the case.
Jesus employed a very common rabbinic teaching technique known as the qoi whomer, literally “from the lighter to the heavier” or “from the lesser to the greater.” Here was his point: if an unjust judge would answer a widow’s persistent plea, how much more will our loving Father hear our prayers.
Jesus taught this parable to make the point that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1). As he taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, we are to “ask and keep on asking” (Matthew 7:7, translated literally from the Greek). God’s word calls us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to “not grow weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9).
Applied to our support for life, it is always too soon to give up on God. It is always too soon to stop praying for the preborn, working to help mothers choose life, and using our influence to persuade others to do the same.
Whatever earthly judges decide, our heavenly Judge “will bring every deed into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Let’s pray and work for life until the day we hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
We cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.
Jim Denison, PhD, is the founder of Denison Forum with a reach of 1.7 million. He also serves as Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health.