April 29, 2019

How Jury Duty Shows the Character of God

Jury duty.

Seen as either a massive inconvenience, or an excuse to get out of work, it’s a civic duty that we, as Americans, can be asked to undertake.

Last week, my time was up.

While I didn’t expect to actually be chosen for a trial, I was, which I figured wouldn’t be so bad. I thought maybe I’d hear an interesting case, get to experience the legal process and have a story to tell.

Then I found out it would be a civil case. About yard water drainage. And was scheduled to last eight days.

Now, it looked like it would be an unbearable week about drainage tiles, ditches and neighborly feuds. In the end, though, it was a good experience with some friendly people during which I got to see the legal process at work. Very, very, slow work, but work nonetheless.

But, on the final night after deliberation and the delivery of the verdict, I was struck by how much something as simple and mundane as jury duty can show us the character of God.

As a jury, we had heard all the evidence, the closing statements, and then were sent to the jury room to deliberate. When we started the week, I thought this would be an easy case to decide and we’d breeze through - maybe even finish early. But, as we entered hour three of our deliberations, that plan was well in the rearview.

We found ourselves arguing over the most minute points. The phrasing of a sentence became the hinge in the case. Remember, this isn’t a life and death case. This is a case about water drainage and awarding money (or not) to people who, we found out later, already had plenty to begin with.

So why, then, did we struggle to come to an agreement on the verdict? Why did one juror say, as we returned to the jury room after delivering said verdict, That was hard. I don’t feel good about any of this”?

It was hard because we’re made in God’s image and He’s a God of justice.

We didn’t want to get it wrong. Even on this small, seemingly trivial thing, we didn’t want to mess it up. We wanted to make sure that we returned a verdict that accurately found in favor of the correct party, and didn’t penalize someone unjustly.

Even after the trial, when everything was completed, we peppered the judge with questions to try to make sure we had gotten it right.

Where do we get that sense of justice, of right and wrong? Where did one of the jurors get the feeling that caused him to say, They were horrible to these people and should pay for it.” Obviously, that sense of justice comes from God. But, our sense of justice is vastly different from God’s, isn’t it?

Our sense of justice is often like that juror. This person did something wrong, so they should pay…they should be punished. That sense is right. People should have consequences for their actions. But, God’s justice is both far more severe and vastly different in delivery than ours.

He said that, yes, there are consequences and, yes, you have done things wrong (at an astronomically more severe level than a civil court case - but against a perfectly holy God), yet He put our consequence - our punishment - on Jesus, rather than on us. His justice is not only perfect, but eternal. But, rather than sentence us all to that verdict with our first transgression, He made a way for us to be forgiven, through repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ.

So, as I reflected on the week on my drive home (which, ironically, after a week of discussing drainage issues on a residential lawn, was in the rain) I couldn’t help but consider what a gift it was for God to give us this sense of justice, this sense of right and wrong. But, what an even bigger gift that he made a way to satisfy His justice without placing the punishment on us.

What a great savior.

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