The parable of Jesus that appears in Luke chapter 18 has been given alternate titles by different editors: The KJV calls it "The Parable of the Unjust Judge," while the NIV gives it the name "The Parable of the Persistent Widow." Through these two titles we are introduced to to its two characters.
The Unjust Judge
This man takes on the status of a god because he has no sense of accountability to anyone. He does not fear God or care about the opinions of others. He has a position of privilege, which cannot be taken from him. In the big picture, however, the judge receives the power he has as a gift. Romans 13 is clear that all governing authority comes from God and is intended for the benefit of society as a whole. His power exists to restrain evil and to put people in their place when they step over the lines that jeopardize community.
She is facing an adversary, and nobody will stand up for her--no husband, and apparently no sons. She knows that the judge has the authority to help her, but he refuses. Instead of despairing, she continues to have a kind of faith in his office, what he is supposed to do. Despite her vulnerable place in society, she does not crumble. She continues to point out his obligations until he can't stand it anymore. Even if she does not awaken a conscience hardened by his sense of invincibility, she nevertheless receives the justice for which she has been pleading.
We join the ranks of the persistent widow when we send a letter or email to the Prime Minister or President on behalf of the unborn or when we advocate on behalf of a prisoner of conscience through Amnesty International or Voice of the Martyrs. Sometimes we get back the carefully worded form letter that tells us our letter was intercepted by an administrative assistant. But sometimes we hear the astounding news that a prisoner has been freed, as recently occurred in the case of Meriam Ibrahim. In that case the Sudanese officials did not so much change their policies about the status of Christians or their belief in the death penalty, but they were overwhelmed by all the "persistent widows," who pressured their governments to save this woman's life.
I don't want us to miss the point of this parable, however. It is really about prayer. The ultimate purpose of the parable is to contrast God with the unjust judge (or any corrupt leader). God will see to it that his chosen ones, who call out to him day and night, will receive justice. There is no favourtism with the Lord; his sense of justice is unbiased. This may also be a reminder to us that when we pray about the settling of personal disputes we ought to pray for Justice and not simply getting our own way.