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  • Writer's picturePastor Bill Kirkemo

Goodness..use round tables!

A group of college students were given the assignment of working with a local judge to see if they could improve the jury deliberation process. The students interviewed dozens of judges, attorneys, former jurors and other court officials.

​They asked all the typical questions about juries—how many men versus women were on juries, what kind of ethnic backgrounds were represented, what were the age breakdowns, educational backgrounds? They also asked about the kinds of instructions the juries were given by the judges, the number of days and weeks the trials took, they even asked about what kinds of food the juries were fed during the deliberations.

​And much to their surprise, the team of college students found that none of these factors mattered much in how effective a jury carried out its assignment.

They did find one thing that made a significant difference, as odd as it sounds, it was the shape of the table in the jury room! They discovered that in a room with a rectangular table, whoever sat at the head of the table, whether they were the foreperson or not, tended to dominate the discussions. But in jury rooms that had circular tables, the jurors tended to have more open discussions, and the debates about the facts of the case were more thorough. The team of college students concluded that these juries therefore produced more accurate and just verdicts.

​So, with joy they presented their findings to the judge. They were successful because of two reasons: They had found a key way to improve jury deliberations, and this key was an easy thing to change – just change the tables. The chief judge was also thrilled with their findings and decreed that effective immediately “all jury rooms that have round tables are to have the tables removed and replaced with rectangular tables.”

That last sentence was not a typo! The students found that jury deliberations would be more robust and accurate if they used round tables. The judge, based on this information, decreed that juries were no longer to use round tables.

Why would he do this? Because the judge’s objective in improving the jury deliberation process was not to make it more robust and fair, or even accurate. His objective was to make it faster. He wanted to reduce the backlog of cases clogging up his docket, and to do this, he needed juries to spend less time in deliberations. Therefore it was good, in his eyes, to have one person dominate the deliberation, because likely that one person would sway all the rest of the jurors in a fast manner.

​Was that a good decision? Would I consider this judge to be a good judge? No! I might call him an efficient judge. I might call him a highly organized judge. I might even call him a creative judge for finding out how to speed up the jury deliberation process. But I would not call him a good judge. For, in my mind, a good judge is not primarily concerned with the speed of the jury’s deliberations, he is primarily concerned with the accuracy and fairness of the jury’s deliberations.

​When Paul lists “goodness” as one of the manifestations of the Fruit of the Spirit, he is saying the priorities of the Spirit of God are not primarily efficiency and speed, but blessing and benefiting others. Biblical goodness is allowing the goodness of God to not just flow into our lives, but to flow out of our lives as well. It is manifesting the love of God in very tangible and wonderful ways!

Now, there is nothing wrong with efficiency and speed when checking out of the grocery store or fixing a broken-down car. But when we are dealing with individuals, when we are interacting with precious Children of God (whether they recognize they are Children of God or not), God’s Kingdom does not break in when we act with efficiency and speed, but when we act with love expressed in goodness.

Now I’ll warn you, to make goodness a priority in your interactions with others will complicate your life.

When you see a hurting friend and take the time to listen to their pain, their burden will to some extent become your burden.

When Christ brings someone to your mind and you feel compelled to call and check in with them, it will probably not be a short call, but will complicate your schedule for the day.

But who do you want God to send your way when you are struggling and facing strong temptations? Someone who is efficient and speedy with you? Or someone who is willing to rearrange their schedule, who is willing to open their heart to you?

​When we are living in the Fruit of Goodness, we are prioritizing people over schedules, hearts over tasks, and love for others over selfishness. It’s not an easy fruit to manifest in this day and age. But oh, it is so desperately needed!

​So, throw out those rectangular tables, and bring in the round ones!

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