The ‘Shameless Audacity’ Needed to Address Injustice

We live in a world that is full of desperate need. And if you’ve been personally touched by that need, then you may be struggling to know how to respond—especially in a time of growing inequality.

Some have so much—money and power—and others have so little. (I have kids who come to my house on a daily basis who ask me for food because they have not eaten breakfast or lunch.)

If that inequality is something that bothers you, I have a simple word of encouragement for you.

Martin Luther King Jr. called this a world in darkness:

“It is midnight in the world today. The darkness is so deep that we hardly see which way to turn.”

King described a world struggling with threats of war and violence, poverty and injustice. And we experience this darkness on a global scale, but also in our personal lives. King described how individuals struggle with their own darkness—anxiety and depression, fear and Netflix addiction (OK. Maybe MLK didn’t mention that last one).

Sometimes it feels like midnight. Sometimes it just feels dark.

Jesus tells a little story about the “midnight” we find ourselves in, that mostly gets overlooked; probably because it is sandwiched between two super famous passages—the Lord’s Prayer and the well-known catchphrase: ask, seek and knock.

But this little story holds a key that will help spur you on in the face of injustice.

Tucked into a little corner of Luke 11 we find the provocative story of a man who is woken at midnight by needy people who come banging on his door.

They are hungry: Hungry for justice. Hungry for mercy. Hungry for my curry chicken leftovers from dinner.

King entitled his epic sermon on this story, “A Knock at Midnight.” And it’s an urgent wake-up call to the church.

Until you hear that knock, you may not even realize that the world is in turmoil. You are slumbering, oblivious to the battle that rages all around. But then you are woken by a knock.

If you open the door you will come face to face with the world’s brokenness.

Go ahead. Take the red pill. Open the door.

Maybe you heard the knock a long time ago and you have been working to respond ever since. Or maybe you heard that knock more recently and you’ve been grappling with how to engage.

Jesus tells us the story of a man who awakens to the knock, opens the door, sees the immediate need and goes to someone he knows can help—his well-resourced neighbor.

But he is turned away harshly by that neighbor: “Don’t bother me man! The door is locked, and my kiddos and I have gone to bed; I cannot get up and give you any bread.” (Luke 11:7)

And here’s where we hear Jesus speaking forcefully, making his point with passion:

“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your SHAMELESS AUDACITY he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” —Luke 11:8

I love that quirky phrase, “shameless audacity”, because I suspect it’s the gentle nudge some of us need to hear right now.

I realize this passage is often framed as a call to pray boldly to God. We’ve been taught that If we pray fervently without giving up, then God will give us what we need. That may be true … but I’m not sure it’s what is being taught here.

Frankly, this hard-hearted response doesn’t sound very much like God to me: Don’t bother me! I’m sleeping and my kids are sleeping too! Sheesh!

And so I’m a little dubious about framing the apathetic neighbor as a God-figure. Honestly, the hard-hearted neighbor sounds a lot more like many of the powerful, wealthy and elite of this world. It sounds like the response of an unjust government, or an insurance company, or a politician.

It also sounds like me at times.

Listen, we don’t need shameless audacity to go to God—he is not an angry, selfish monster hiding behind a bolted door. He welcomes us even in our brokenness and fear. A bruised reed he will not break! A cup of coffee he will extend!

But we do need shameless audacity to take the needs of the world to those who have the power and resources to respond.

We do need shameless audacity to speak out against injustice and inequality.

We do need shameless audacity to get up and fight for what is right!

And so isn’t it interesting then that the very next command Jesus gives is, “Ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9)


In the context of this story those words take on a radical new meaning, right? I used to think this phrase was about asking for myself and my needs. But instead this is what Jesus is saying: We live in a world at midnight. The needs are pressing. Inequality and injustice is growing. And you hear an urgent knock at the door.

It is the knock of those who are hungry and struggling—the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed. Or as the Bible often puts it: the orphan, the widow and the refugee.

Respond to the world’s needs by asking those with power and resources for change—with gutsy, shameless, head-held-high audacity.

Seek justice with boldness and courage. Don’t back down. Don’t give up.

And when you knock, undeterred by the hard-heartedness of those whose door you are banging on, Jesus suggests, the door will eventually be opened.

And remember, the story always starts with a knock on our own door.

Shameless audacity.

You can read Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon on this passage here.

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