For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.
So I took my place at the table, everyone staring at me, men wiping their eyes. The bailiff handed me a large envelope and I took out the papers. The top sheet instructed us to answer the questions on the following page, to sign and date it, and to hand it to the bailiff when we were done. The following page had two questions on it, which I read to the jurors. There was no law stated (the new law). There was no explanation of any law. There were no instructions on how to apply any law. There was no evidence present with which to compare to the law. (Again, no law was shown to us.) They were asking our subjective opinion. There were only these two questions.
I do not remember the exact wording, but this is essentially what the questions were.
1. Do you think/believe that the defendant thought to kill the victim when he committed the crime? (This referred to the charge of vehicular manslaughter.) There was no evidence, no testimony, nothing.
2.Do you think/believe that the defendant, by leaving the victim on the highway alone, and fleeing the scene, intended for the victim to die of her wounds? (This was referring to the Hit and Run charge.) Again, there was no evidence for this.
The people who were crying before, started crying again, everyone began loudly speaking out in outrage against this request. Some just sat in shock. We figured out that how we answered these questions would directly affect the judge’s sentence of the man. We realized that if we answered positively, the man would receive a harsher sentence, than if we answered negatively.
People were saying that this was not right! This is impossible! They were asking, “How can we know what he was thinking or intending? They are asking us to do something we cannot do!” They were right. The court was asking us to judge the thoughts and intentions of the man’s heart. We could make a guess, based on the circumstances of the case, but that is not judging actions. It would be judging his heart. This would be based on no facts, no evidence. They wanted us to judge something invisible.
I told them that they were right: we cannot judge the man’s thoughts and intentions; only God can do that, and God does do that. We can only judge actions and evidence. I told them that what the court was asking us to do was immoral since they were asking us to play God. We decided to refuse to answer the questions based on moral grounds. (We realized that the court was only following orders from a new law that came from the state.)
So on the paper I wrote a note to the judge stating that we respectfully refuse to answer the questions because it would be immoral to ask someone to decide the thoughts and intentions of the heart, since only God can do that.
I signed and dated it, leaving the ‘yes/no’ boxes blank.
We handed it to the bailiff and some time later, we recieved a note from the judge telling us that by law (a law we did not even get to read) we were required to answer the question, under penalty of law, as jurors. We were required to decide! We felt so defeated in our attempt to stand for what was right. So we all agreed to write ‘no’, to both questions, and we handed in the papers. We stated we were protesting this requirement; we greatly disagreed with being asked to do this. Then we were called into the court, everyone still present, and the judge read aloud our answers to the questions, and said that no addition to the original sentencing would be added. The sentencing would take place at a later date.
This was so disturbing to us. We did not know anything at that time about ‘hate crimes’ laws. We did not know what we were dealing with. As I reflect on this experience, I think about the potential for hate crimes laws, and I find it interesting how the same people who do not want society to judge certain visible actions as wrong (things that God in His word says are wrong), are the same people who are now asking our society to judge things which cannot be seen; the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Someday in the future Christians may be judged for speaking the gospel and God’s Word, if(when) these things become illegal. But further, Christians may be judged for the thoughts and intentions of our heart as we do these things. Hopefully, our thoughts are filled with God’s precious Word to us: His commands, His promises, and the gospel of grace. Hopefully, our intentions(in witnessing and teaching God’s Word) are to love God with all our heart, to obey, serve and trust Him, and to care about others in love as we do these things.
But what if the jury decides our thoughts and intentions are not so good?
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1Pe.4:19.