That’s right, I volunteered for Jury Duty. No, to my knowledge, I’ve not lost my ever-loving mind. I thought it through and I volunteered to serve for the next four months on a Grand Jury. I suppose I should start out with how I was actually able to volunteer since, normally, one is “volunteered” for it. When I checked in, I assumed it would be like other jury selections of which I’ve gleefully participated and an elimination process would ensue at which point I would be among the chosen few or, like many of the hopefuls I would be playing judge for, get off Scott free. This was very different.
To my surprise, I quickly learned that the court prefers volunteers to sit on the Grand Jury. Because of the length of service and the nature of this particular type of jury, it is best to have those who, for whatever reason, want to serve.
Admittedly, my first reaction was, “Who in their right mind would want to serve for four months on some jury?” The more I thought about it, though, the more it became a real decision I had to consider: do I sit back and hope for the best, waiting to see if there were enough volunteers to fill the seats without me being drafted, or proactively take one of the seats of my own volition. The decision turned out to be a tough one, but I chose the former…of course you already knew that. The question is, why?
As I sat deliberating over my course of action, I quickly weighed the pros and cons: I thought about the time commitment–all day every other Monday and Tuesday throughout the entire Summer. Well, there’s one strike against it. I thought about the heinous nature and the sheer volume of the crimes I might have to consider…strike two. I thought about my already busy schedule as a pastor. I didn’t need to add something so time-consuming to my already-full docket. Strike three…but not out. As I began to pray about it, asking God to reveal to me what He wanted me to do, other considerations began to flood my mind.
1. We talk a lot about the need for the Church to make a difference in the world…a world where her influence as the Church is being eroded almost daily. It seems as though anything related to conservative orthodox Christianity is marginalized as antiquated and out of touch with mainline culture. How can we really make a difference, putting our faith into action? This is an opportunity, as a child of the very One who defines what is just, to serve in a position of influence within the community. As one filled with the Holy Spirit of God, there is no one better qualified to serve in such a capacity. Yet, rather than take these opportunities, we regularly do everything we can to get out of them. Ouch.
2. I’ve done my share of complaining about the justice system. Almost every time I watch the news, I bemoan the lack of accountability with politicians bending (or outright redefining) the law to hardened criminals who get little more than a slap on the wrist for destroying lives. If I’m not willing to serve when I have the opportunity to make a difference, quite frankly, I need to shut up.
3. To serve is a privilege in a free society. In this Country, an individual accused of a crime is not left to defend themselves before some crooked dictator, but before fellow citizens and peers. We, as citizens, have the final say in declaring guilt or innocence. That is something I am both thankful for and whole-heartedly support and should be proud to participate in the process.
4. Most importantly, I thought about my children. I want my sons to grow up with a sense of responsibility. I want them to be ready at all times to stand up for what is right and be a part of the solution in the world in which they live. I want them to be men of integrity who can be trusted to do the right thing all the time and be willing to be inconvenienced in service to others. What am I telling them if, when I have the opportunity to take a stand and voluntarily serve the cause of justice, even when inconvenient, I figure out a way to “be excused” from service. I have a responsibility to my children to set an example and I cannot take the “do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do” approach.