In 1981 the Australian Christadelphian Committee published a paper on Jury Service written by Brother Kevin Dawes. We are grateful that permission has been given by Brother Kevin to publish it in The Lampstand. On account of its length it will be divided and appear in this and the following issue. It is an excellent article and we commend it to our readers. This is the concluding article in the series, Christ and Caesar, which the CSSS intends, God willing, to publish in due course.

In recent years there has been an increase in calls for duty as jurors in the various Court Jurisdictions, and many brothers and sisters have had to witness their conscientious objections to providing this service.

There are two aspects involved in a consideration of this matter as under –

  1. The mechanics of responding to summonses to attend for jury service

The requirements of the various state regulations vary and are subject to change and affected brethren are advised to seek advice from their local state Christadelphian committees.

  1. The principles upon which our objection to service are based

The Australian Christadelphian Committee in considering the whole matter decided to ask brother Kevin Dawes of the West Ryde Ecclesia to restate those principles for the guidance of those affected, and this publication is the result of that work.

It is commended to the prayerful consideration of the brotherhood so that the separateness to the requirements of our God in this aspect of our allegiance are kept clearly defined and our stand as the ecclesia of Christ is not compromised. The publication will be particularly useful to new members, who have not had the need to apply themselves to a study of this subject, but it is also useful exhortively in providing a contemplation for all brethren and sisters of this aspect of our high and holy calling.

Australian Christadelphian Committee 1981

ALL SOCIETIES develop and organise systems to regulate and govern themselves. The systems developed by different communities may be quite dissimilar to one another so that the processes of governing and maintaining law and order in Australia are different from those in Iran which in turn are different from those in China or Poland. How ought a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ react to the question of involvement in these regulatory functions of the community in which one lives? Are there scriptural principles which can be applied no matter what the circumstances?

In general terms the answer is quite clear. Paul in Hebrews 11:8–16 points out that the allegiance of believers is to God and that “they desire a better country, that is a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city”. Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ while living in the society and obeying its laws are “not of the world” (John 17:16) and seek primarily to serve as citizens of God’s community, strive to obey God’s laws and must give precedence to them when there is any conflict between them and those developed by the society in which the brother or sister lives. As Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; 4:19). This does not mean that believers are not in any sense citizens of Australia, or some other country, with the consequent obligations and privileges, but that their primary, essential relationship is with God and His purpose and that matters relating to human nationality must take second place.

These principles apply to Christians in all communities and at all times in history but their application to particular situations and at particular times involves the action of an informed conscience. Their relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ does not require that believers forgo the benefits of society, nor should they evade their proper responsibilities to society. Where there is not the clear “thou shalt” or the clear “thou shalt not” the task is to apply scriptural principles to situations and in conditions where often there is no literal scriptural parallel.

Peter provides a general guide for us when considering a believer’s place in society (1 Peter 2:11–17). In part this quotation states, “Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake … Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king”.

Even here where obligations to the governing system are emphasised the over-riding basis is still obedience to God; obedience to the laws and rules by which the society regulates itself are subservient to this primary responsibility.

It is apparent that there is a range over which this participation in the regulatory mechanisms of society can occur, from standing for parliament to voting in local government elections; from joining the armed forces or the police force to being a member of a jury; from being deeply involved to having what may appear to be a minor involvement. Some roles may be seen to be more obviously in conflict with our allegiance to God while others might seem more to relate to individual conscience, to those issues of which Paul wrote, “Let each man be fully assured in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

The main purpose of this article is to discuss the position of a brother or sister in relation to participation in jury service but since this must be seen in the context of our place in society and our attitude to other forms of involvement in society a review of other relevant situations will be given. These are well known and will be treated very briefly indeed but they help to build a more complete picture and to show a consistency of attitude.

A Membership of the armed forces or the police force

We believe membership of these bodies is incompatible with our faith and support this stand by pointing out that –

  • A believer’s primary citizenship is in God’s kingdom and his allegiance is to God;
  • The use of violence conflicts with God’s law and Christ’s teaching for believers today and they “must obey God rather than men”; (Matthew 5:20–26 and 38–42)
  • Believers cannot be involved in any part of a system whose functions involve aggression and the use of violence even if this is said to be in defence or in the protection of others;
  • The act of “taking the Oath” is not in accord with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 5:33–37; James 5:12)

B Standing as members of parliament or as aldermen in local government

Again it is claimed participation in society in this way is not for followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This view is supported by the following considerations –

  • A believer’s citizenship is in God’s kingdom and not in the present earthly system. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) and “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
  • Political parties and voters are not interested in a scriptural platform. The adoption of the Sermon on the Mount and other parts of Christ’s teaching as government policy, upon which a believer must insist, is an unrealistic and impossible dream in the materialistic society in which we live;
  • To become involved in politics is to become associated with a system of preferment, half truths and even bribery. Such an association would compromise a believer’s faith;

James, Peter and Paul give advice to slaves, masters, servants, men, women, children, elders, young men, old men, widows, young women, old women but give no advice to rulers of this world. This striking omission suggests that brethren and sisters ought not to aspire to these roles but rather that they seek the blessing of God on rulers to rule wisely. In writing to Timothy, Paul gave this advice, “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgiving, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity” (1 Timothy 2:1; see also Romans 13:1–7).

C Voting in political elections and referenda

It must be clearly understood that it is not the process of voting which is in question, since many ecclesial decisions are reached in this way, but the involvement in the system of government.

In support of non-involvement in these activities, it is maintained that –

  • A believer’s active citizenship is in God’s kingdom, not the kingdoms of men. Voting is seen as the highest level of involvement of citizens in government and men fight and die for this privilege. Believers do not see themselves as part of this system;
  • God rules in the kingdoms of men and a believer would not wish to operate contrary to His purpose (Daniel 4:17,32);
  • As a stand consistent with the views of non-involvement in politics as politicians, and of conscientious objection to becoming members of the armed services or the police force, believers do not seek to participate in the act of political decision-making by voting at political elections or in referenda.

Jury Service

Against this background the question of jury service assumes a proper perspective. While there have been differing viewpoints on this issue in the past a greater degree of consensus would seem to be emerging both in Australia and other countries. The Australia Christadelphian Biennial Conference has for many years upheld the view that being involved in jury service is not compatible with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no direct statement in the Scriptures on participating as a juror or on being involved in law enforcement procedures as we are considering them in our community.

There was law enforcement under the Law of Moses, originally by Moses, Aaron, Joshua and the elders, guided by God. Later the Jews developed a body called the Sanhedrin, traditionally originating with the seventy elders who helped Moses (Numbers 11:16–25), which together with local courts exercised considerable authority. During the period of Roman occupation it had very wide jurisdiction including criminal matters, although its opinion in capital cases required confirmation from the Roman procurator. Its most well known case, the trial of the Lord Jesus Christ, involved a gross miscarriage of justice. Illegalities, personal jealousies, power struggles, incomplete or perjured evidence, those feelings and actions so typical of human frailty, were revealed and provide a salutary warning for men who would rely on their own judgment in these situations and highlight how believers might expose themselves to making similar errors if they were to act as jurors.

In 1 Corinthians 6 something like a jury might be suggested. Paul wrote, “Dare any of you having a matter against his neighbour, go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1). But this is within the ecclesia, is not identical in purpose with a jury and does not seem to involve allocating guilt or punishment, but perhaps the germ of the idea is there.

This is as far as possible scriptural parallels would seem to go and gives no support to the view that a brother or sister could be involved in present day enforcement procedures in society.