The other day, when our church’s administrators and I were hanging around the office, one of the administrators mentioned she had jury duty next week. Jury duty–just the sheer phrase makes us take a deep breath.
Without asking whether or not she wanted advice, the other administrator and I talked about ways to get out of jury duty. Our conversation was as natural as drinking water; I didn’t give it a second thought.
Upon reflection–the next day I believe it was–I started to think about our response to the administrator. We assumed that she wanted to get out of jury duty. We didn’t stop and ask whether she felt blessed to serve her county, let alone her country, in this capacity.
God works (and speaks!) in mysterious ways, because it wasn’t two days later that I heard a lawyer on some random radio talk show speak about the privilege of jury duty.
Privilege? I never served jury duty (never been asked), but all I hear is how much time it takes, how lousy the pay is, and how mediocre the food could be. My dad always despised it because he was a one-man small business owner, and one day spent in jury duty compromised the amount of bread he put on our dinner table.
As I was listening to this lawyer, however, something changed in my thinking on this subject.
Jury duty is one of the primary ways of flexing our constitutional muscles–specifically the third article and sixth amendment of said Constitution. There was a time before the War of American Independence when Britain was abusing American colonialists by taking people to court with naval trials–some of which were held on ships off the American coast.
As British subjects, these colonialists decried that the trials were partial–the accused were not being judged by their peers. Abuse of this system was rampant, especially when King George III really wanted those Americans to pay their stamp, tea, and sugar taxes.
This abuse was one of the reasons why the war for independence took place. When our country’s forefathers crafted the Constitution, they made sure to learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past. They guaranteed every American a speedy trial by a jury made up of one’s peers.
This constitutional right was a tenuous one, especially in cases involving race and gender. Before the 1960s, most minorities were tried by white juries; most of the jurists were men. It wasn’t until after the Civil Rights movement that we finally gained a truly just and fair system.
It is that very system that we try to shun today. If everyone is looking to get out of the jury pool, then what peers will be left to insure a fair trial for the accused? Jury duty is both an honor and a privilege, and it insures that the integrity of our judicial system is held accountable.
When Paul wrote his letter to churches in Rome, he addressed a Christian’s obligation to the state. The Roman Christians, not dissimilar from us, were trying to use their faith in Christ to abstain from civic duty. Many stopped paying taxes.
In Romans 13:1, 7, Paul combated this line of thinking: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servant, busy with this very thing.”
I know that when I get my jury duty card in the mail, I will have the same thoughts as many others. Serving will be inconvenient and tiresome. But from the perspective of God’s Word, I am obligated–and blessed–to serve in this long judicial tradition. What an honor it will be to not only serve my country, but to serve God as well.