“Always” and “never” are adverbs most at home in the angst of an argument.
“You NEVER help with the chores!”
“You’re ALWAYS nagging!”
Perhaps you’re incredibly civilised and don’t partake in domestic mud slinging, but for those of us who do, “always” and “never” conversations are commonplace.
“Why do you ALWAYS say that?”
“Why is it that you NEVER make time for me, but you have no end of time for your friends?”
Aside from the fact that such statements are pretty much “always” untrue, they’re also pretty much “never” useful. They also demonstrate our humanity; the fact that we’re imperfect beings yearning for perfection. We are trying to fill our ALWAYS and NEVER desires with flawed people. Square peg, round hole.
In reality, I can only trust the “always” and “never” conversations of one being. God.
These are promises that no man or woman can replicate. Our mortality picks holes in grandiose pledges of “always” being there, and “never” leaving.
I serve an ALWAYS and NEVER God whose pledges I can trust. The tenacity of my God is something I aspire to, something I try very hard to replicate in my relationships and faith.
Jesus told ‘The Parable of the Persistent Widow’ to show that we should “always pray and (never) give up” (Luke 18:1-8). To paraphrase… There was a mean old judge, who didn’t have a compassionate bone in his body, and there was a widow who kept pestering him to, “Grant me justice against my adversary”. She didn’t let up. She kept at him, returning again and again until finally, exasperated, the judge gave in – not because he had an about-turn but because he had-it-up-to-here with her hounding him.
Jesus concluded the parable by saying, if a corrupt judge will extend favour, how much more will “God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?”
The ALWAYS and NEVER God asks us to “always” pray and “never” give up. In the face of hopeless situations, he offers hope because only God can serve justice on an intrinsically corrupt world.
To put this example in a modern context, think of the atrocities perpetrated under the Indonesian government. Did you know that the people of West Papua have been suffering rape, torture, imprisonment and death under Indonesian occupation since 1962? Over 500,000 civilians have been killed – a situation left largely unreported because foreign media are not permitted to operate there (click HERE to learn more). And, of course, there is the injustice in our own Chan and Sukumaran of the Bali Nine who are headed for the firing squad despite demonstrated rehabilitation.
President Joko Widodo and his predecessors look a lot like that mean old judge in Jesus’ parable.
In situations like these, where hope is a parched trickle, we can only pray and persist in speaking for the oppressed. Our ALWAYS and NEVER God will bring justice. Evil will crumble like the Berlin Wall and apartheid.
Unlike the mean judge in the Bible story, God always hears us and never has to be wearied into acting for our good.
Never give up.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 16, 2015.