I just wrote a journal entry for Brian, Master Gees’ houseboy. The entry was a reflection on duty. In Boy Scouts we say, “I will do my duty to God and my country.” I get to ask each boy what it means for them to do their duty, and what their duties are to God and to their country.
Almost universally the eleven year old boys have a tough time expressing what duty is and what their duties are. Even though I’ve tried to explain it dozens of times. I still have a hard time explaining duty in words that a boy can understand – maybe because I’ve never really put it into words that I understood.
I think about my duty to God. Is it obedience to God? I would say that it is my duty to be obedient, but not the other way around – I am being obedient by doing my duty to God.
In the blog I wondered if duty had to do more with the motivation than the actually thing being done. Is it my duty because I’m afraid of the consequences? No. Is it my duty because I’ve been charged with the obligation? Maybe sort of.
I think, at least in part, that I do my duty to God because of my realization of how wonderful he is. He is so great that as an act of recognition of that greatness, I feel a sense of duty. Doing my duty is not about the results of my actions, but instead a response to God’s actions in the past.
Is the same true for my country? I feel a duty to my country, not because I might be rewarded for doing my duty, but instead because of how good my life is because of this country. I follow the laws and pay my taxes, not because I fear the punishment for not doing these things, but because I believe that I live in a great country that deserves that response from me.
Perhaps that is the problem with how we view duty. We are surprised when people don’t do their duty. But if someone feels betrayed by their country, where would the motivation to do their duty come from? And when citizens stop feeling like they have a duty to their country, the country has to find another way to obtain obedience – fear.
How much better when citizens feel a duty to their country. rather than when a ruler has to use fear. How much better when we feel duty towards God because he has loved us, rather than to live in fear of the wrath of God if we are not obedient.
I’m glad I feel a duty to God and to my country, not a fear of God and country.