Greetings in Jesus’ name!
We start with a contribution from our Young Adults on Gender Based Violence arranged by Mandisa Gumada as part of a Sunday in Black.
The sermon is preached by Revd Seipati Ngcobo, Assistant Priest in the Parish of Holy Trinity, Hillcrest.
Please find the text of her message below.
The Sermon is followed by a short video input on the meaning of Gender Based Violence, the text of which follows the sermon below.
An audio version is available on request.
The Widow and the judge: Being persistent in seeking justice
Rev. Seipati Ngcobo
Luke 18: 1-8
St Paul’s Virtual Service – 02/08/2020
Have you ever felt like you were being treated unfairly? Where you had to advocate for yourself, constantly wondering: “Am I seen? Am I heard? Have I any part in the story of God?”
Jesus and many other Jewish Rabbis in his time knew that there is something in the human heart that loves a story. And so from time to time, rabbis would use parables to help people relate with the deep spiritual things of God. But it was rare at the time, to have women as the subject matter. Many parables told by many rabbis were constantly aimed at the masculine: their context, their imagery, everything that men would have known and recognised in their daily lives. And this made it very hard for women to locate themselves in the story that was meant to reveal the deep spiritual truths about God. Time and time they would listen to stories that would apply to their fathers, husbands and sons, but hardly to them, their mothers, their sisters and their daughters.
Maybe women wondered: “Am I seen? Am I heard? Have I any part in the story of God?”
It was into this culture that Jesus came, teaching using many parables where women are the subject matter. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches his disciples about a widow who was thirsting for justice. A widow who would have been regarded as an outcast as soon as her husband died. A widow who was experiencing unfairness and injustice and felt compelled to have her voice heard. And just as she tried to stand up for herself, seeking justice against her opponent, she was confronted by systems of oppression and injustice, where an unjust judge who had no respect for anyone and no fear for God [Luke 18: 4b] had absolute power to determine what would and would not happen.
She needed help, she needed to be heard, she wanted justice and she refused to take no for an answer. For a while, the judge refused her request [Luke 18: 4a] but she remained persistent, constantly pouring out her heart and seeking justice even when it seemed her request was falling to deaf ears. Jesus teaches that the woman’s persistence not only wore out the unjust judge, but her persistence restored things back to the state of justice.
Jesus taught this parable to his disciples, because he knew that there would be times in the life of the disciples, when they would feel like life is unjust and unfair. Times when they would probably question: “Why has God not heard my cry and answered my prayer?” “Why is life so hard, and why does it feel like injustice and evil is always winning?” “Does God see us and hear us?”
Understanding that this would be some of the things that would trouble them as his disciples, Jesus encourages them to not lose heart and persistent in prayer [Luke 18: 1]. Jesus wants them to recognise that although the widow had nothing and no one to advocate for her, she still became an agent of change. This widow took it upon herself to do something right, even if everyone in her world would have preferred that she keep quiet. She embodies an image of God that takes the side of those who are poor and oppressed. A God that is aware of the reality that justice is needed. And she demonstrated a remarkable power in being persistent in her pursuit of justice. Possessing the power to never give up in seeking justice, the power to make it known that out of respect for human life, one can pursue justice with diligence and persistence.
Just like the disciples, we also know what it’s like to live in an unjust world. A world where people who hold power become like the unjust judge: people who time and time again fail to acknowledge the value of human life, and fail to hear the outcries of the vulnerable and the oppressed. The outcries of women hanging on trees with their unborn babies…who have no more power in them to speak out against gender based violence. We live in a world that finds discomfort in us speaking out, and comfort in us shutting up.
But this parable echoes the call of God to us through the words of prophet Micah: who asks “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6: 8]. We cannot act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God if we fail to stand alongside the “ oppressed widow” of our day. We cannot follow Christ as we truly desire, while we act like the unjust judge – looking away each time we hear the cries for justice. For us, love lies at the centre of our pursuit for justice. Out of our love for God, flows our love for our neighbours, and in our love for our neighbours, we persistently pursue justice.
I know that sometimes, our cries for justice are met with silence and our prayers seem unanswered, but if an unjust judge who did not care about people, did the right thing for the widow, how much more will a God who loves justice hear us and grant us justice in our lifetime? Jesus asks: “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” [Luke 18: 7]. “I tell you” – says Jesus, “he will quickly grant justice to them” [Luke 18:8a].
God will grant us justice. God’s Justice will not be out of selfishly avoiding being worn out by requests, but it will be because God respects life. God respects the beautiful creation that all women, men, children and creatures are. Our work for justice is never in vain, but it comes for our pursuit of being like Christ. So my sisters and brothers do not lose heart to, be persistent, and do not look away. Let us stand together to end Gender Based Violence and other injustices in our world. Amen.
What is Gender Based Violence?
Gender Based Violence or GBV is one of the most common and widespread human rights violations. GBV is violence directed towards someone on the basis of their gender or sex which results in physical, sexual or psychological harm. These acts violate an individual’s human rights. GBV is most commonly perpetuated by men against women, girls and other vulnerable people. However, men can also be victims of gender based violence.
Who are the perpetrators?
Non-partner violence is violence inflicted by someone you do not know well, like strangers, acquaintances or colleagues. However, violence is generally perpetuated by someone you are close to. This is known as “inter-personal violence” which is perpetrated by either a friend or a family member. Intimate partner violence is perpetrated by someone you are in an intimate partner relationship with – a lover, a spouse or an ex-partner.
What are the difference types of violence?
Physical violence is the intentional use of physical force or threats of violence. From a pinch to a punch, any act of violence or the threat of violence is damaging, whether the damage can be seen or not. Sexual violence is forcing, intimidating or even tricking someone to engage in any sexual act against their will. Any sexual act with someone who is unable to understand what they are doing or is unable to consent because of their age and illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs is sexual violence. Forcing a lover or spouse to engage in sexual acts is a form of gender based violence, either called “marital rape” or “intimate partner rape.”
Sexual harassment is also a form of sexual violence that can be verbal or physical. It occurs in private and public spaces, such as schools, workplaces, in the streets, and on public transport.
Economic violence involves denying the person access to their money, economic activity or other basic needs by either controlling their finances or from stopping them from achieving financial independence. All these forms of violence may lead to emotional or physical trauma.
Emotional violence can also mean verbal abuse, humiliation or controlling what a person can and cannot do. Emotional and economic violence are as equally damaging and disempowering as sexual and physical violence. These types of violence are often misunderstood or ignored by people, even those we turn to for help, like the police, the courts and other support structures.
No matter who you are, where you live or who is inflecting it, GBV is never acceptable.
For more information visit www.genderlinks.org.za