judge not

Today I was supposed to report for jury duty. But a few days ago I received a call saying that all the cases had been settled and I wasn’t needed. I have to admit I was relieved to get that call, because I wasn’t eager to go to the courthouse and conscientiously object to jury duty, as I had been planning to do.

I had planned to simply say that, as a follower of Jesus, I had been taught not to judge or punish others when they had done wrong. That seems pretty clear from Jesus’ well-known words, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” And his sermon on the mount teaching, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” Then there’s the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was presented with the law and the evidence against the woman, and asked for his verdict. But he does not give it. Instead, he says “let the the one without sin cast the first stone.”

That response of Jesus seems to echo what he said about not judging. Since we are wrongdoers ourselves, we are not in a position to justly judge and punish others. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Removing a speck from an eye requires a careful and gentle hand. And, as we learn from Jesus and our own experience, we should know that removing evil also requires great care and patience, not the blunt instruments of force and violence.

I don’t suppose this answer would have gotten much of a reception at the courthouse. But I do think it’s a worthwhile message. Both because most of the people involved would also call themselves “followers of Jesus,” and because the urge to punish others should always remind us of the wrongs we ourselves have done.