Confession: I would have had fun saying yes. But I said no.

What an opportunity it would have been to enter another world, to learn and discover, to gain power and experience, to meet new people and ask hundreds of questions. But I said no.

I would not have liked the immersion into human pain and brokenness. Yet I don’t want to hold back out of fear, protecting myself in an ivory tower. I want to move with courage into the world, to engage, to catch hold, to say yes. But I said no.

September 24, 2012

Dear Ms. Williams,

I recently received a jury summons from your office, and am replying to this.

I truly appreciate my national and local government, and am grateful for the many benefits of living in a land where justice is valued. I try to be a law-abiding citizen and contribute to my community.

I also have faith in Jesus, and live as a nonresistant Mennonite. I believe that the teachings of Jesus prohibit me from taking an active role in government. I believe that as He did, His people may overcome evil through suffering love, not through force or legislation. I cannot in good conscience stand in judgment of another human, and I would respectfully ask to be exempt from jury duty.

Yours sincerely,

Shari Zook

Do you think it a valid premise? Ryan helped me know what to write, but I believe in it too. I don’t think the answer to human pain and unhappiness lies in government. I think it springs from within, when Spirit sparks spirit and all is made new.

When my hand reaches out—to rescue, to chastise, to bind up, to tear down—I wish it to be powered by the blood of Jesus, not the muscle of Uncle Sam.

What would you have said?

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11 years ago

I think you did well.

mama zook
11 years ago

Well said!

11 years ago

Maybe I’ll pass this on to Daryl. He was summoned this week also. Do your officials let you get out of it with a letter? Ours do not. We have to show up, and go through all the proceedings, then when the judge asks if anyone is opposed to it for religious convictions or otherwise, then you stand up and plead your case face to face. Last time, the judge kind of threw some of Daryl’s remarks back to him in disagreement. But since he felt he could not judge another person fairly, they let him off. I, to my embarrassment, got off because of the “causing undue hardship” clause. I had 4 babies at home w/ me, that I would’ve had to get a babysitter for.

I like your letter tho. Very well stated, and you’re right– any lasting change or reformation MUST be powered by Jesus’ love and blood.

11 years ago
Reply to  Renita

Good question! I don’t know–this has never happened to me before, and I guess we’ll see…

11 years ago

Here are a few of my thoughts…
I think I may have gone (well, in reality I may have plead off due to my 2 babies at home and due to the fact the demand on your time can be endless). But I think I would have gone, not only because I am fascinated with the legal courtroom proceedings, but also for another reason. I feel at the core of my being that in defending the weak, there is something that AGREES with the nature of God. If I don’t stand up for the violated, who will? To stand and watch when you see injustice; to have the opportunity to help bring justice and say no? I know that Jesus taught to turn the other cheek. I can’t ignore that because He did say it. But I can only conclude we are interpreting “non-resistance” improperly. We must not be understanding His heart or the intent of His words correctly. His heart was not to ignore people’s needs or turn a blind eye to injustice. I agree with the reasoning that it is better to overcome evil with love. But my problem is this: HOW, may I ask, do you give that answer to the wounded, the violated, the weak? If a woman was raped, does she not deserve someone to stand up for her and call out “injustice!!! on her behalf? In the past, the church, of all people, has been the co-conspirator. Or at best, the blanket under which the violator took shelter. Does the violator need to be punished? Absolutely.
Now, should the woman forgive her offender? YES!! She will never find true freedom and healing unless she does. But on the other side of the coin…do I uphold the concept that the violator should be punished? Definitely. It’s a simple matter of cause and effect. Here’s the rule”don’t harm other people” if you choose to break the rule, here are the consequences. I personally, could not see myself meting out the justice, because I am a mercy person by nature, but I believe there are those called to do so.

You could go so many directions with this conversation. Is it wrong to enforce the death sentence and so on. I don’t know for sure about all that (this is kind of a gray line in my theory at this point). Some offenses do deserve death, but I can’t see that anyone, believer or non-believer, has the right to take a human life. And I don’t know for sure what “being involved” means for each person out there. I just know that non resistance CAN’T mean bowing your head and praying that God would bring justice, while ignoring the opportunity to be that person to bring about justice.
Your thoughts?

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

I have to say I struggle with this as well. Kind of along the same line that Rachel said. What do you do with the verses, that say that God puts people in authority for the punishment of evil doers? I say I struggle with this and yet I am embarrassed at my struggle. There is just this sense of justice\compassion that rises up in me when I see someone else wronged. I am against the death sentence, but wonder about punishments. If a person continues to harm others should he not be locked up if for no other reason for the protection of those whom he has harmed. Like I said, I am a mennonite and I believe in non resistance so I struggle with this and I am embarrassed with my struggle. Would like to hear some more thoughts on this.

11 years ago

What better people than Christians who have Jesus Himself living inside of them to make wise, conscientious, and fair decisions? I think we’d all agree that those who break the law should have consequences? And that a “jury of our peers” is a good idea? I would love to have Christians on my jury if I were being tried for something – especially if I were wrongfully accused. I guess I’d have a hard time saying no to jury duty. I’m not saying it would be fun, necessarily. And I’m not criticizing your decision, Shari. Just my thoughts…

11 years ago

Wow. Intelligent thoughts from passionate people—now this I love! I don’t want to interrupt the conversation… I foresee a follow-up post on the horizon, after I’m done with my current series. Great questions!

Mama Murrey
11 years ago

I’m also a Mennonite, and these issues became much clearer for me when I began to think of myself as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. If I were visiting Italy, why would I participate in their government at any level? Why would I fight in their army? Why would I vote in their elections?

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