Fathers and mothers have duties, too. Their duty, of course, is to care for, provide for, and love and teach their children. Nobody forced them to become parents, but the moment they did become parents, they also relinquished their rights to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want. We honour and admire fathers and mothers who do their duty toward their children, and so we should. We also shame the mother or father that neglects or abuses their children.
Civil governments and the leaders of those governments have duties. Employers and employees have duties. Husbands and wives have duties. Teachers, policemen, judges, servants, preachers and even children have duties. Everybody has duties, and usually, we have a sense of pride (in the best sense of the word) when we have fulfilled those duties ourselves, and we show honour to others who have fulfilled theirs. Why is it then, that when it comes to serving the Lord (especially in the local church), “duty” is not embraced and honoured, but seen as something to be rejected and despised? So few Christians nowadays have a sense of their obligation to God and their fellow man, and as a result, many churches are in a crisis of Christian servants. There just isn’t anybody who is willing to serve. Pastors and their wives are over-worked and end up retiring early, because they don’t have the help they need in the ministry. It’s a big problem.
I’ve heard many church leaders and church members say something like this: “I can’t ask them to do that because I don’t want people to feel obliged to …………” (fill the blank with any act of Christian service from cleaning church toilets to soul-winning or leading a Bible study). It always makes me sad to hear that. I honestly believe these well-meaning people are grieving the Lord with this kind of thinking. Why shouldn’t a Christian feel obliged to serve God? Why shouldn’t a blood-bought child of God feel a sense of duty or obligation to show his/her love and appreciation to God for saving them from their sin and eternal judgment? We ARE obliged to God! We ARE duty-bound! Why should we not feel so? Nobody forced us to give our lives to Christ, but the moment we did, we relinquished the right to do what we want, and exchanged it for the duty to do what He wants! Isn’t that the very essence of verses like I Cor. 6:19-20 and Rom. 12:1?
I Cor. 6:19-20: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Rom. 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Even a lot of pastors these days have caved and refrained from calling on church members to do their duty, in favour of the pious-sounding call to “serve if you can do it from a heart motivated by love.” Although I can understand where they are coming from, I think it is an idea that ought to be avoided because it implies that those who serve from a strong sense of duty do not serve out of a heart of love. This is simply not true. The soldier, though he serves with a strong sense of duty, does he not love his country? Indeed, he enrolled in the army because he loves his country. And I would hazard to say that he probably loves his country more than the ones who stayed home from the battle. His love is of the highest kind…the sacrificial kind. The father or mother, though they care for their child out of a sense of duty, does that mean they do so without love in their heart? Of course not! Duty and love need not be mutually exclusive, but rather duty most often proceeds from love...or a sense of duty is the proof of love. The Bible demonstrates this fact most clearly in Jesus’ own words: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) And the Apostle John, known as the Apostle of love, said in his first epistle, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:2-3)
To be sure, it is entirely possible for someone to serve out of duty without love, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who serves with a sense of duty is without love. And while the highest and preferable motivation for any kind of service is surely love, that doesn’t mean that duty has no place of importance in the Christian life. The Apostle Paul had a great appreciation for people who did their duty and recognised the importance of a sense of duty in his own life and ministry. You see, while he preferred to be motivated by love, he also knew that there are times when love can be difficult to muster, and that is where a sense of duty can motivate us to do what we ought: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” (I Cor. 9:16-17) In other words, if I preach the gospel out of love, I have a reward, but even if I don’t really want to do it, the gospel has been entrusted to me and I am obliged to preach it. I have a duty to preach it. When our love wanes, or when our flesh rises up and we just don’t feel like doing what we know we should, a sense of duty can motivate us to submit to God’s will and command.
I believe that anything that helps us to obey the commands of our Lord ought to be embraced and encouraged. I believe the Apostle Paul thought so too. Many, many times he exhorted pastors, believers and churches to fulfil their duties. As we just read above, he spoke of the duty to share the gospel (he did this on many occasions), but he also exhorted us to fulfil our duties in other areas, such as in caring for the poor (Gal. 6:6). He also tells us in Gal.6:9 to “not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” He goes into great detail when describing the respective duties of wives, husbands, children, servants and masters. (Eph. 5 and 6). In I Tim. 5:18 Paul reminds believers of their duty to provide for the physical needs of their pastor. In II Tim.1:6 he tells Timothy (and us) to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee,” showing our duty to use the spiritual gifts that God has given us. In Hebrews 10:22-25 he speaks of the Christian’s duty to lead a holy life, to hold fast the profession of our faith, to provoke one another to love and good works and to attend church.
In the beginning of I Pet. 5 the Apostle Peter reminds pastors of their duty to feed the flock and be good examples, and then goes on to remind the younger (whether in age or spiritual maturity) of their duty to submit to the guidance of the elders. The list could go on and on. I could show you verse after verse about our duty to give to missions, to pray for God’s servants and for our authorities, and to bear one another’s burdens. But I think you get the picture.
The Christian is described as holding different jobs or positions in the Bible. A few of them I have listed below. Each one shows the different duties that are entailed in the Christian life:
A Soldier (II Tim. 2:3-4) “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” As soldiers in Christ’s employ, we have a duty to fight the spiritual battle against sin, to fight for souls, to endure hardness and to generally please our Captain.
An Ambassador (II Cor. 5:20) “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” As ambassadors we have the duty of speaking to men on God’s behalf. We represent the King of the heavenly country of which we are citizens. We have a duty to speak and behave as the King desires.
A Servant The apostles all called themselves servants of Christ as well as servants of their fellow man. Jesus also told parables about servants and masters that may well be applied to Christians, too. The position of a servant is probably the position that stands out most as being one of duty. The servant or slave is completely at the beckon call of his master. He has no right to exercise any will of his own. His is a life of complete submission, obedience and service.
A Disciple This is a name that was given to anyone who was a follower of Christ, but it literally means “apprentice” or “learner.” The duty of a disciple then is to learn from Christ.
A Child (of God) (John 1:12) “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” In Eph. 6 we read of the duty of a child. It is to obey and honour his parents. As Christians and children of God, our duty is to obey and honour our Heavenly Father.
Because we are bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood and no longer belong to ourselves, we have a duty, that is, a legal and moral obligation, to obey God’s every command and to serve Him with our whole life. We ought to do these things out of love and appreciation for all that He has done for us, but even when we don’t love Him as He deserves to be loved, we should be compelled to obey and serve Him by a sense of duty because of our indebtedness toward Him.
A sense of duty cannot be an admirable thing in a soldier, parent, employer, employee, public servant, teacher, preacher, ambassador, disciple or child and be a distasteful thing in a Christian. That is inconsistent. We must embrace the importance of duty in the life of a believer and its power to motivate us to do what is right at times when we don’t feel like it. We must be thankful for every opportunity the Lord gives us to do our duty and offer ourselves and our lives in His service. We must learn to see duty for the beautiful thing that it is and stop thinking of it at a four-letter dirty word.
Left to right: Blake, Hosanna, Eden, Elijah, Suzy, Mordecai, Chris, Ariella, Nathanael
Suzy and her family are missionaries to Romania