“One man is dead. Another man’s life is at stake,” says the judge somberly in the classic 1957 film 12 Angry Men. The evidence against the young suspect appears overwhelming. But during deliberations, it’s the brokenness of the jury that’s exposed. One of the twelve—juror number 8—votes “not guilty.” A heated debate ensues, in which the lone juror is mocked as he points out discrepancies in the testimony. Emotions escalate, and the jury members’ own murderous and prejudicial tendencies come to light. One by one, the jurors switch their votes to not guilty.
When God gave His instructions to the new nation of Israel, He insisted on honest courage. “When you give testimony in a lawsuit,” God said, “do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd” (Exodus 23:2). Interestingly, the court was neither to “show favoritism to a poor person” (v. 3) nor to “deny justice to your poor people” (v. 6). God, the righteous judge, desires our integrity in all our proceedings.
In 12 Angry Men, the second juror to vote “not guilty” said of the first, “It’s not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others.” Yet that’s what God requires. Juror number 8 saw the real evidence, as well as the humanity of the individual on trial. With the gentle guidance of His Holy Spirit, we too can stand for God’s truth and speak for the powerless.