Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reflections on Jury Duty—How it Relates to the Church

It took twenty-five minutes to make it through the metal detectors. No, silly, I wasn’t at the airport—I was at the Court House for my first day of jury duty. Women and men from all walks of life were gathered for a common cause. Our system of justice depends to the “trail by your peers.” Our system of justice isn’t perfect—it is the best that the world has ever seen.

Jury training emphasized two main points. Point number one concerned parking—there just aren’t enough parking spaces reserved for jury parking. Jurors receive a special parking pass to keep them from getting a ticket unless they park in a loading zone, a short term zone or park illegally. Point number two involved our tasks as a juror. Jurors do not decide points of law—that is what the judge does. Jurors are to listen to the testimony with an open mind, follow the judge’s instructions and decide the verdict of the case.

Last week my memory verse was “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) The meaning of this verse was CLEAR to the first century church—Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection. The Romans and the Jews could have stopped this radical group by producing the body of Jesus. Such an action would have destroyed Jesus’ credibility and the credibility of his followers. The passage goes on to say, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

People are faced with a choice: Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection or he didn’t. Those who believe that he rose from the dead (using a biblical definition of “believe”) are called “Christians” and those who don’t ARE NOT Christians—even though they may think that they are!

The out-going moderator of our Presbytery preached at our last Presbytery meeting (Presbytery of Olympia). His message talked about the need for diversity in Christ’s church. He was troubled that some churches are withholding GA per capita. He was troubled that churches across the denomination are leaving the fold. He said that we need to be able to sit down with those in the denomination with whom we disagree theologically to talk and stay together. In his example he said that we needed to be in dialogue with those in the church who do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus—there is room for all of us in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In jury training we were told that there are certain tasks that are reserved for the judge and certain tasks reserved for the jury. If a juror is unable to abide by those guidelines he/she is to say so and be dismissed from the jury. The jury IS NOT to do that which they are not empowered to do.

Why is it in the Presbyterian Church that we tolerate those who try to redefine what it means to be a Christian? Someone who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a Christian and CANNOT be a member of a Presbyterian Church! They need to be witnessed to. They are welcomed to attend our churches and hear the gospel preached. Their continued failure to believe will be dealt with by God on the Day of Judgment. Since they are not believers, there are positions in the church that they cannot occupy: pastor, elder, deacon, member, GA staff, Presbytery staff, Synod staff, seminary staff, etc. The Bible is clear about what we should do with false teachers, apostles and prophets.

A pastor friend of mine was serving a “united” church—Presbyterian and Methodist. He was “off the charts” on the liberal side. He had served as pastor of a small Methodist church for ten years. During that time a transformation occurred within him. He was reading his Bible and saw that what his Bible taught was very different from what he believed and what he had been taught in seminary. He gave his life to Christ Jesus. From that day forward he referred to himself as a “born-again liberal.” He still believed in the traditional liberal causes of the church—as long as a relationship with Jesus Christ was the beginning point of transformation. His Methodist pastor colleagues thought that he had lost his mind. My friend would say that he had surrendered his mind and will to that of God in Christ Jesus.

We need to let God be God and learn to follow him. If we are unable to do that, like the juror, we should make that known and be excused from the Presbyterian Church.


At 12:51 PM , Anonymous TonyC said...

I really like "born-again liberal," since I think that's where a great number of us early Boomers are. And that's why I'm very distressed whenever the denominational division along so-called conservative/liberal lines comes up. (I think you mentioned it a couple of days ago.) The traditional labels don't leave room for us evangelical liberals. And I'm not sure we want to end up in the moderate group, with all those lukewarm foks that are going to be spit out.


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