That non-involvement in jury service is consistent with the stand expressed concerning joining the armed services, becoming a politician or voting in elections is more clearly seen when one compares the reasons  usually given for acting on a jury with the scriptural viewpoint. Some of the reasons usually given by  thinking members of the public in support of  participating in jury service are as follows:

  • It is pointed out that being a member of a jury is one of the highest levels of a good citizen’s activity to ensure that the democratically decided laws for controlling society are  obeyed. In addition citizens ought to be involved to ensure that the innocent are not  wrongly condemned;
  • It is said that Christians with their belief in honesty and justice, are ideally suited to be members of a jury. It is said that  the tendency of Christians not to judge  others is likely to prevent hastily made or ill-considered judgments and so help to  reduce the possibility of wrongful conviction.  Christians are less likely to be susceptible to  pressure and bribery;
  • It is said that if Christians choose not to be involved in jury service they are reducing the effectiveness of the system and of society as a  whole. Because of their action the rest of the  community must take a heavier load of work  and decision making. Christians who avoid  jury service are not taking their fair share of  responsibility for community welfare and are  adopting an impractical and selfish attitude  to life;
  • It is said that members of a jury have only to decide innocence or guilt and not to determine the consequences of the decision.  The penalties have been decided by society as a  whole through its laws and it is the role of the  judge to interpret these in fixing any sentence  resulting from the jury’s decision;
  • The argument is put that anyone accused of a serious crime would appreciate a system like that involving a jury and a fair trial. “Why  won’t you help others in this way?”

The strength of these arguments rests on a  commitment to human government coupled with  a lack of understanding of Christ’s teaching.

But what is the teaching of the Bible? What did  the Lord Jesus Christ say that might be relevant?  Where should allegiance lie? This is the vitally  important question for brethren and sisters to  answer. The essential matter of allegiance has been  introduced already but other significant issues must  be considered as well.

It should be noted at the outset that it is not the  concept of jury service that is being questioned but  the involvement of Christ’s followers in the system.  The believer does not question the right of society  to use such a system nor whether it is the best yet  available to the community but is concerned about  participation in it.

What are some of the reasons why a believer would not wish to be involved in jury service?

By acting on a jury a believer identifies himself with  the State. A jury is a part of the law enforcement  system of the society. A system which consists of the  police, the prosecutor and defense representative,  the magistrate or judge, the jury, and perhaps even  the gaol officials; all of which makes one system.  This is a continuum of law enforcement and each  part fulfills a role in the whole process. Involvement  in part is involvement in the whole; a whole  involving activities with which the believer could  not, in conscience, be associated.

Paul explained in Hebrews that men like Noah  and Abraham “died in faith … having confessed  that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”  (11:13). They worshipped God, were His servants  and gave themselves to Him. Their first obligation  was to Him, not to the country in which they lived  or to the people around them or the local rulers. Thisis not to say that they fulfilled no responsibilities to  those about them, as the Bible clearly shows that  they did, but their duty to God came first. They  did not join in government with the peoples about  them. Those who seek by baptism to become “the  seed of Abraham” find themselves expressing the  same beliefs and acting in the same way. No divided  loyalty is possible.

In Ephesians Paul emphasises the change that  comes when believers identify with Christ rather  than with the world about them, “Ye are fellowcitizens  with the saints, and of the household of  God” (2:19). A new citizenship is created.

Peter very expressively makes the same point.  “But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy  nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye  may shew forth the excellencies of him who called  you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  which in time past were no people, but now are  the people of God; which had not obtained mercy,  but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).  As “the people of God” believers do not seek to be  involved in the governing or regulating systems of  the community in which they live.

If believers were to follow the scriptural  injunction not to pass judgment on other men and  women they would be unable to reach a decision  as to guilt or innocence when acting as a juror and  so would be more likely to impede the course of  justice than to assist it.

In Romans one reads, “Wherefore thou art  without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that  judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou  condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest dost  practise the same things” (Romans 2:1). The spirit  of this passage well matches the spirit of the words  of Jesus, “Ye have heard that it was said an eye for an  eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you resist  not him that is evil, but whosoever smiteth thee on  the right cheek turn to him the other” (Matthew  5:38). One might ask how being a part of a law  enforcement system, which includes meting out  punishment, would fit with these words.

Again, “And if any man would go to law with  thee and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak  also” (v40); and again, “Give to him that asketh of  thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn  not away” (v42). Catch the spirit of these words. Do  they match the purpose of a court? Whether this  is an impractical view of present day society is not  the issue. The believer seeks for scriptural principles  and is not concerned with deciding whether a  man-made society could function using them. The  follower of Christ seeks the mind of Christ not the  view of a sociologist.

In recording Jesus’ words, Matthew wrote,  “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what  judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with  what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto  you” (Matthew 7:1). Could believers feel that in  a jury they could then decide “guilty”? Consider  the problems with the evidence one might hear.  Consider the problems the prosecution must have  in obtaining first hand evidence, in obtaining all of  it, in selecting what is to be presented and then in  communicating this to the jury. How difficult it is,  well nigh impossible, to really uncover motives. Will  decisions be influenced by the skill of the lawyers in  putting arguments or casting doubts on evidence?  How well can a person evaluate all the complexity  of human actions and feel absolutely confident in  the decision? There is more than this behind Jesus’  sanction, but even this highlights why human  judgment is so susceptible to error.

In Romans Paul wrote, “Bless them that  persecute you; bless, and curse not … Render to  no man evil for evil … Avenge not yourselves,  beloved, but give place unto wrath: for it is written,  Vengeance belongeth unto me. I will recompense,  saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:14,17,19). Compare  the attitude conveyed in this Scripture with that of  a man-made law enforcement system.

Luke records a relevant incident for  consideration, in chapter 12. “And one of the  multitude said unto him, Master bid my brother  divide the inheritance with me” (v13). Here was a  matter of interpretation and implementation of the  law, a law Jesus would have known and understood.  Jesus replied, “Man, who made me a judge or a  divider over you?” It is obvious that the man wanted  Jesus to become involved in the legal forms of his  day but the reply says, in effect, “That is not why  I am here, and that is not my role.” The message  should be equally plain to followers of Jesus today.

Conclusions

This collection of Scriptures seems to point clearly  to two conclusions. Firstly, being advised to refrain  from judging, a believer cannot, in conscience, reachany decision about the guilt or innocence of an  accused. Such a position is obviously incompatible  with jury service. The brother or sister would be  a hindrance to a jury performing its appointed  function.

Secondly, having an attitude similar to that  of his Lord, a believer could not fulfill any role in  the law enforcement system and so would find it  contrary to his conscience to act on a jury.

A further point, which had been mentioned  already, is worth developing.

Because human beings can never know all the  facts surrounding an incident it is very difficult  to make decisions which are right. All too often  judgments are made on the appearance of things  which later is discovered to have been misleading.  While the court attempts to be fair, it is difficult to  feel confidence in one’s decision when the evidence  may be incomplete, almost certainly selectively  presented, where there is the possibility of perjury  and where one’s human fallibility is so apparent.  A follower of Christ places himself in a position  where he may be involved in a miscarriage of justice.

James wrote, “For he that said, Do not commit  adultery, also said, Do not kill. Now if thou dost  not commit adultery but killest, thou art become  a transgressor of the law” (James 2:11). James is  pointing out that all breaches of the law make one  equally guilty and all men are finally convicted of  sin. Because of this, our attitude should not be of  passing judgment, but of mercy. “So speak ye, and so  do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty.  For judgment is without mercy to him that hath  shewed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment”  (v12,13). Could a brother or sister act on a jury and  find someone guilty?

Brethren and sisters look forward to the time of  which Isaiah wrote, “And he shall not judge after the  sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing  of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge  the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of  the earth” (Isaiah 11:3–4).

In looking forward to a time like this one  acknowledges that man’s ability to judge is fallible  and incomplete, that any human system involving  such judgments will be subject to error, that some  of the guilty will be acquitted and some of the  innocent found guilty. It is only in a divinely guided  kingdom that perfect judgment could exist. The  world as a whole, neither seeks nor wishes to have  divine controls and so human fallibility becomes  the measure of justice. Would followers of the Lord  Jesus Christ wish to be involved as equals with other  members of society in exercising this blindness as  members of a jury?

In Corinthians Paul wrote, “For what have I to  do with judging them that are without? Do not ye  judge them that are within, whereas them that are  without God judgeth” (1 Corinthians 5:12–13).

Irrespective of the particular situation of which  Paul wrote, the general attitude conveyed in this  quotation is that brethren and sisters were not to  become involved as members of a judicial system  outside the ecclesia. It would be necessary for them  to assess situations within the ecclesia, done always  after prayerful seeking for God’s guidance on all  those concerned, but it was not for them to be linked  with any external system where this common bond  of reverence, prayer and worship did not exist.

There is no doubt that the jury makes a positive  contribution to society and one recognises the  advantages it brings to the community but we  believe that the Scripture clearly teaches that  brethren and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ should not be involved in it.