Civic Duty ≠ Inconvenience
Recently, I had another experience with jury duty (I will save my first experience for another blog). It is that civic duty that all of us may or may not have experience once or several times in our lives. This was my second time being summoned for jury duty. My first summons happened five years ago when I was summoned for jury duty by the federal district court in Cleveland. I considered that to be the longest day of my life, and have spent long hours on an airplane. When you live an hour away from your destination and you have to be there by 8:30am, it makes for a very early morning.
The worst part of this experience is the waiting. The potential jurors have to wait for everyone to arrive, watch the video, go to the courtroom, and endure the long process of participating in jury selection. This selection, at the federal level, is a longer process because the group of potential jurors is larger than the prospective groups selected at the municipal level. I am the type of person that has to constantly be focused on something. So, sitting in a courtroom with restrictions (minimal talking, remaining seated) for hours on end is not a situation I want to be in. Nevertheless, this was the situation I found myself in that day.
In the end, I was not selected and I felt like I had wasted my whole day in Cleveland. What really irritated me about the whole experience was that I had to miss a day of work. At that time, there was nobody else adequately trained to do my job, so when I returned to work the next day I came back to a mess. My first experience with jury duty really fueled my dislike for this civil responsibility.
How many of you exert a groan when you go through your mail and find a summons letter for jury duty? It seems that when we see a letter with the word courthouse on an envelope, our muscles naturally tense up. I will admit this happens to me. Why do we feel this way? It seems that jury service has become an inconvenient human experience.
Jury trials, or trial-by-jury, has been a cornerstone of many judicial systems. The twenty minute video they make you watch offers a brief explanation of its origins. In fact, Aristotle was the first to express a need for an individual to have their crime be evaluated by a group of his/her peers. Over many centuries, jury trials developed and this concept was instituted by the founding fathers when America was still in its infancy.
They should not be considered a waste because it gives every voice the opportunity to be heard. This can be a positive or a negative. Juries have found the charged person innocent when they are actually guilty. This has come up in many high-profile cases, such as the O.J. Simpson trial. I bring this case up as an example as it is probably the most well-known trial case in American history. It is these instances that give jury duty a bad name and reputation.
Scripture offers us advice on civic responsibility. 1 Peter 2:13 tells us to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” Titus 3:1 says “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any good deed.” Serving on a jury is a good deed.
We should keep these verses in mind the next time we get one of those letters in the mail. Jury duty is one of those activities that we will all have to participate in at least once in our lives. The Lord calls us to do good deeds. Even if you still find yourself becoming frustrated with it, just pray for guidance. The Lord will always help us. Think of it this way: jury duty is not an inconvenience, it is a good deed the Lord has called us to do.