A jury is a panel of impartial people who listen to all evidence presented in a court trial and render a verdict. In the USA, potential jurors are chosen at random from voter registrations and driver’s license renewals. Jury duty is not optional for anyone so summoned in the United States. Part of living in a free society is that every citizen must be willing to participate in the governmental and judicial systems that help keep it free. Because our court system relies on the jury system, thousands of citizens are summoned each year to be screened as possible jurors. How should Christians respond when summoned for jury duty?
Romans 13 is the go-to passage for instruction in the way Christians should respond to governmental authority. Verse 1 begins with, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Part of being “subject to the governing authorities” is to obey the jury summons. Since there is nothing about the jury system that contradicts God’s Word or His principles, there is no ethical reason to risk punishment by refusing to comply. Romans 13:5 goes on to say, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
When a jury is to be chosen, hundreds of summons are mailed to local citizens. They are instructed to report to the courthouse at a given date and time or face stiff penalties. Nursing mothers and those whose absence from work would present a critical problem can be excused by special permission. Everyone else is expected to appear at the time given and undergo an often tedious selection process whereby the opposing attorneys attempt to seat a jury that is most likely to render a good verdict.
There may be some Christians who cannot, for the sake of conscience, participate on a jury that could render a guilty verdict leading to the death penalty. For those who oppose capital punishment, the idea of jury duty may be intimidating. However, the court is sensitive to such convictions, and neither judges nor lawyers want a juror who cannot vote his or her conscience. That person would most likely be excused during the lengthy selection process, which explores the backgrounds, convictions, and willingness of each potential juror.
A Christian should respond to jury duty with a sense of reverence and humility, recognizing the grave responsibility that rests upon his or her shoulders. The future of another human being hinges upon the jury’s decision, and such power should not be taken lightly. A Christian serving on a jury should bathe every step of it in prayer, asking for wisdom to make a right decision (James 1:5). The Christian juror can also look for opportunities to humbly mention the Lord to other jurors, demonstrate respect and kindness during the entire process, and model a positive attitude during the sometimes boring, tedious waiting times. When Christians view every situation as an opportunity to represent Jesus, even jury duty can have eternal significance for not only the ones on trial but also for those responsible for the verdict.