I’m going to admit it – I’m not very knowledgeable about JP’s (Justice of the Peace). I don’t know much about them or what they do. All I know is when you have an official document that needs signing, they are the ones you call. So needless to say, when one of our church members (a local JP himself) invited his colleagues to our service last Sunday, it was time to do some homework.
First of all, there are quite a few of them around. We have 7000 JP’s in New Zealand, spread out around the place with 29 regional associations.
Secondly, they are there to serve the community for no reward. They can’t charge. Their services are completely free.
Thirdly, their functions fall into two categories, referred to as ministerial duties and judicial duties. All JP’s are required to carry out ministerial duties but further training must be undertaken by JP’s before they may provide judicial duties. Ministerial duties include:
- Taking oaths and declarations
- Witnessing signatures
- Certifying copies
Judicial duties would include:
- Hearing summary offences
- Presiding over preliminary hearings
- Conducting traffic courts
- Hearing bail applications and requests for remands and adjournments
Lest I bore you with any more of those details I want to tell you what we did to honour these individuals at our service. (If you wondering why they were there, our local association of JP’s attends a church service once a year in our community. We had the privilege of being their hosts this particular year).
We began our service by honouring their presence. We wanted them to feel part of the family. Then we gave praise to God in song as we always do, choosing one or two songs they might be more familiar with. Then their President, Terry Byrne, addressed our congregation with some background to JP’s in our country and explained something about who they are and what they do.
Unfortunately for Terry, just as he got up to speak, one of the little tots in the front row decided to start making a fuss. The fussing increased to a crying and then a full-out wailing. If that wasn’t bad enough, his little brother (or sister) decided to chime in with him. So there they were: two toddlers wailing in perfect harmony (or should I say, disharmony), while this very articulate and gracious man battled on with his speech. He actually didn’t miss a beat. I thought this was a remarkable feat, considering the circumstances.
Then I came forward to pray. For me, this was the most important part in the service. I did some preparation because I wanted to pray meaningfully and biblically. I didn’t want to pray something off-the-cuff that would be shallow, superficial and worst of all – untrue. I wanted them to know that prayer is a great privilege for God’s people and is only possible because of what Jesus has accomplished for us. I wanted them also to know that they are not in their role by accident, but are God’s servants doing God’s work for mankind.
This is what I prayed (verse references were left out):
We thank you for the awesome privilege of coming before you, as your people, to pray. We thank you that your Son Jesus made this possible by his perfect sacrifice on the cross. And so we come before in his Name and trusting alone in his work.
We thank you Father that we live in a society where there is justice and peace and order. We recognize that this is from you, for “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; faithful love and truth go before You.” (Psalm 89:14)
We recognize also that the keepers of justice – the Judges and law makers and Police offices are established by you, for your Word tells us there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God (Romans 13:1). They are your servants, doing your work for the good of our society and the glory of your Name.
So we thank you for these servants who are here today – members of the Justice of the Peace, who help and aid in this important work. Thank you for their dedication and commitment to serve their community.
Give them wisdom in carrying out their work. May they act with utmost integrity, treating all individuals fairly and justly so that they can defend the cause of the oppressed and needy (Proverbs 31:9).
We know they do this work voluntarily; thank for that Father. May you honour them for that. May they sense that their work is part of something bigger than what they see; that they are in fact serving you. And most importantly of all, we pray Father that when they one day meet you, they will be on good terms with you, having found peace with you through your Son and the great message of salvation, which has gone to the ends of the earth.
We ask these things in Jesus name and for his glory,
My desire is that they left our church feeling they were welcomed and appreciated in a deep and meaningful way. My prayer is when they heard the preaching of the Word of God they tasted something of the goodness and grace of God that might move them one step closer to knowing Jesus personally (if they don’t already). And my hope is that one or two of them, perhaps, may even decide to come back.