Originally posted in Rabyd Theologian 2.0 on February 9th, 2011
When I originally posted a post two years ago it have left some concern about the definition of ‘duty’. The way some talk about ‘duty’ you might think it is a four letter word used deride or diminish. Nothing could be further from the truth as all things of value find that value in duty.
Webster – Duty: obligatory tasks, conduct, service or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or a group); a moral and legal obligation and the force of those obligations.
Duty is a term that conveys a moral commitment to someone or something. It is not passive but active, it involves a choice to place the interests of others above one’s own interest. Duty then is an expression of self-denial that results from one’s commitments to others. It is in its purest form an expression of love.
In my post on Love and Intimacy in Christian Sex, I pointed out that intimacy and sex are a duty in Christian marriage. When you are married there is the obligation to one another to engage in self-sacrifice to meet each other’s needs and wants. It is part of the process of becoming one flesh to give up what I feel I should do and instead do the right thing to become more intimate and one-flesh in nature. The point of it is that it is not my duty to point out my wife’s duty to me, but to fulfill my own to her. Part of that should involve communication to her and my needs and wants (in a sense this is part of my duty as well, as my wife can’t fulfill her duties to me if she does not know my needs and wants) but it is on my wife and her sense of duty to fulfil them once she knows them. Duty does not involve selfishness in this case but self-sacrifice. The very essence of what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 7:3 and 4 is fulfilling duty in one direction but giving authority in the opposite one. The husband must fulfill the duty to his wife but gives up authority over his own body to her. The reverse is also true. Mutual surrender of self and mutual obligation are what is expected in marriage as part of a covenant relationship and it is duty that ultimately is the driving force of that covenant.
Women have argued with me over this when it comes to sex, but I always ask them -“Should your husband stay faithful to you?” Answer: Yes. “Even if he does not feel like it?” Answer: Yes. “Why?” Now at this point the conversation gets sticky because they want to talk about love but when it comes right down to it they will end up saying that it is his obligation to stay faithful regardless of how he feels or thinks about it; it is his duty to be faithful. Once this is admitted then my question comes. “So then, why should you be intimate with your husband at times you don’t necessarily feel like it, show respect to him when you don’t feel like it or have his back in a crisis when you don’t feel like it.” Answer: Duty.
For men, the argument is much the same only the subjects of a woman’s needs for being valued, conversation and romantic affection become the subjects. More on that in a later post.
Another great illustration involves military service. Men and women when they choose to serve, give up their rights as citizens to protect citizens of a country. Duty compels them to serve something greater than themselves above their own interests and safety.
Duty then becomes a significant cornerstone of things like: devotion, honor, love and faithfulness. Feelings will come and go, but a sense of duty transcends feelings and causes a person to sacrifice self-interest for the sake of something bigger or higher.
Duty is risky and it can be tricky to deal with in situations like abuse and when one side has thrown their duties to the other to the dogs. In these cases, godly counsel and action may be need. However, for the most part a sense of duty will lead a person to a higher form of love that transcends feelings, thoughts and desires. Duty may well be the door that leads love to a higher and deeper state of being.