“Duty and Commitment”
“Wishing and Hoping”
“Expectations and Expectancy”
“Happiness and Joy”
The distinctions between these pairs can be, and sometimes is, profound. Since Advent they have taken me to significant changes in my life view. (Future blog material??) Today, let me share about the “Duty and Commitment” dichotomy.
Up front, let’s be clear: quibbling over which definition applies correctly to which word will produce more heat than light. A more en-light-ening discussion assumes the definitional application in order to focus on the concepts in play.
To that end, I define “DUTY” as an obligation imposed on someone by an outside force, be it law, social custom, parental tapes that continue to play on a loop in the mind of the adult conceived by the child, etc.
“COMMITMENT” is an obligation self-imposed or undertaken by someone, freely and by choice. This does not mean that the commitment is not suggested, directed, or modeled by an outside source.
The language used in our Holy Communion liturgy: “Free us for joyful obedience” seems to me a movement from “DUTY” to “COMMITMENT.”
I know that there are some people for whom DUTY is a sacred concept. I also understand that this is largely a generational issue.
I also know that there are some people for whom DUTY is anathema. What that person does is largely controlled by what they feel in the moment will most likely lead to their own happiness. I also understand that this is largely a generational issue.
When we only do that which feels good in the moment, then our god is ourself. When we only do that which duty compels, then our god is one who is to be appeased.
A god which needs to be appeased – whether by our compliance with duties or by the proper offer of sacrifice – is a god separate and apart from us.
A god which needs to be appeased – whether by our compliance with duties or by the proper offer of sacrifice – is not a god in whose image we are made, but instead a god we are trying to impress enough to become acceptable.
A god which needs to be appeased – whether by our compliance with duties or by the proper offer of sacrifice – is a god which I have a hard time picturing as something that loves me. It seems more like something that makes loving me dependent upon my conduct or my belief system.
My parents did not love me like that. I was lucky enough to learn unconditional love in my upbringing. And I remember hearing Jesus say that the goodness of our earthly parents’ love will pale in comparison to how God loves us. (Matthe 7:9-11)
However, in their unconditional love for me, my parents also instilled in me principles for good living that they learned from Jesus. I have tried to instill these Jesus principles in my children and in the flock entrusted to me. But they were taught me (and I have tried to teach them) as commitments – the keeping of which are consistent with how good, abundant, and eternal life looks like in God’s Kingdom (on earth as in heaven.) These commitments seem to me to be prescriptions, as opposed to rules to be obeyed (or else.)
If I follow these prescriptions as dutiful compliance to rules they do not seem like the freely chosen commitments I make.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out.
I understand that different folks have come into relationship with God in different ways. Perhaps, part of my “issue” is that many of the people who live their life under duty [to appease a god who is satisfied only by a select few who get it right]
• seem pinched,
• seem less generous,
• seem less loving
• seem less joyful, and
• seem to be less in love with God than they appear to be Eeyore-istically devoted to trying to get it right and to be good enough, and who seem to salve that constant inferiority by looking for other folks that they can believe are less lovable by comparison.
I know that [almost] no one sees themselves as I described in the last paragraph and set of bullets. Few of us ever see ourselves as people who think differently see us.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out, and I’m still growing in my relationship with the One Who said that He is the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
I would love to hear your responses. How do you wrestle with this (if you do)?
(c) 2013 0123