Recently I ran into a Jehovah’s Witness acquaintance, Jose, in the jury duty assembly room.
(I was surprised to see him there, assuming that JW’s wouldn’t report for jury duty. In talking with Jose, I learned that yes, they report, but somewhere along the way they are asked whether they have a religious belief that would disqualify them from serving, and it is at that point that they express their conscientious objection to serving on a jury.)
Jose and I chatted a little, and I showed him one of my favorite verses, but we mostly talked about other things. I didn’t push my “Jesus agenda” very hard. We exchanged phone numbers, thinking that if we were both dismissed, we would lunch together. After a while we went to separate courtrooms, where his case was dismissed before they even got started, and I ended up serving on a jury for 4 days.
A week and a half later, I got an unexpected phone call from Jose, asking me whether I was done with the jury duty. I said yes, I was, and expected him to then invite me to the kingdom hall or a Bible study. But no! He asked me about the case I had served on, wanting details about it. He wasn’t being nosy, or condemning. It seemed more like he was genuinely curious. I think he wanted to know what serving on a jury was like, having never experienced it himself. I enjoyed telling him that I appreciated serving, and that if I ever found myself on trial, I would appreciate being judged by my peers.
Jose’s phone call is one among several “friendship experiences” that I have recently had with my JW friends. These are times when we don’t discuss doctrinal issues, but we interact as real friends, whether it’s helping someone to move, or helping someone to grieve, or discussing an item of mutual interest (jury duty, food, etc.). If the conversation naturally leads into a discussion of doctrine, great. But if not, then just spending time together as friends deepens our mutual trust when the doctrinal issues do come up. When I have a doctrinal point to make, I don’t have to be bombastic about it. I don’t have to pressure, or convince, or argue. I can just share, as a friend.
I love these JW’s. I don’t call them “my friends” in a patronizing way. I consider them to be actual friends of mine. It would grieve me if we were cut off from seeing each other, whether by an elder’s edict, or by their own conscience. Yes, they try my patience, but don’t all friends do that at times? Yes, I value my friendships with Mark, and Aaron, and now Jose.
And it’s a bonus that our genuine friendship enables them to be more open to challenges that I share with them regarding their doctrine. It’s the power of friendship.