George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Conflict of Duties -- Part I
Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father--Luk 9:59
The Conflict between What Is Right and Wrong
There has been very considerable discussion as to the precise import of this incident, but the moral significance of it is unmistakable. Here is a man whose difficulty lay in the pressure upon him of conflicting duties. On the one hand he felt the claims of home. He had his duties which he owed a father. On the other hand he heard the call of Christ, bidding him come away and follow Him. And all his difficulty in that great hour, when the windows were opened and the deeps were broken up, was how to reconcile in his own conscience these two competing and conflicting duties. He was not torn between the right and wrong. He was torn between the right and right. He hesitated between two rival claims, both of them stamped with the seal of the divine. For on the one hand there was his filial piety, and his passionate reverence for the honored dead; and on the other hand, imperious and urgent, there was the call of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Primary Conflict Is between What Is Good and What Is Evil
Now the primal and bitterest conflict of mankind is the conflict between what is good and what is evil. Into that heritage we are all born, and there is no escape from it to the last hour we live. "O wretched man," cries the apostle, "who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul knew, through all his fellowship with Christ, what it was to be clutched at by the beast. And there is no strife of any civil war, or of cross and crescent, or of east or west, that is so terrible and long as that. I had a young friend who came back from Keswick once as if it was going to be singing all the time, and full of his happiness and new-found ecstasy he went to see my venerable father, Dr. Whyte. And Dr. Whyte looked on him and laid his hand upon him, and said with all the intensity of love, "Sir, it will be a sair warstle to the end. "My brother and sister, you may lay your reckoning that it will be a sair warstle (a hard battle) to the end. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of spiritual darkness. And yet, as many here can testify, the battle of every day may end in victory, when a man has learned that the strength he has to keep him is the strength of a risen and a living Christ.
The Conflict between What Is Right and Right
But as life advances and deepens and enriches, there is another conflict which emerges. It is not the conflict between right and wrong. It is the conflict between right and right. All of us stand in various relationships, and life is rich in proportion to relationships. To be utterly alone were to be dead, for no man liveth to himself. And these relationships, as they enlarge our being, and heighten our personality indefinitely, so do they carry with them, in their widening circles, an ever-increasing complexity of duty. As life grows richer, gladness increase. As life grows richer, duties are augmented. Every new tie that man or woman forms, carries its burden as surely as its blessing. Every new plighting of troth in holy wedlock, every new opening of an infant's eyes, carries its claim as well as its delight. Send a man out into some savage wilderness, and you limit his duty to himself and God. Give him his place in family and state, and family and state lay hands upon him. And so as life advances in complexity, and grows more intricate and rich and wonderful, duties are born which we accept from God, and which are yet very hard to reconcile. So to the conflict between right and wrong there is added the conflict between right and right. New voices call us, new claims press in upon us, and they seem to jar with the old familiar voices. There are men whose bitterest and sorest struggle is not the fight between duty and disloyalty. It is the secret battle of the spirit between one clear duty and another.
On the field of history that is strikingly exemplified by the conflict between military and religious duty. Right down the ages we have signal instances of this moral collision in the soldier's life. No duty is more sacred than a soldier's duty. He is bound in absolute loyalty to his king. For him obedience is the crowning virtue, and disobedience the depth of criminality. And hence for him, bound by his soldier's oath, the awfulness of the problem that confronts him when the obedience he owes his king clashes with his obedience to his God. The Jews realized it when, as Josephus tells us, they were ordered to help to build the heathen temples. In the Roman Empire it was the trial and tragedy of many a soldier who became a Christian.
Conflict between Duties of Mercy and Justice
The same collision in our social life is often experienced in another way. It is experienced in the strife that wages between the duties of mercy and of justice. That we are called to be merciful as Christ was merciful is graven deep on every Christian heart. We are to be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us. We are to bear all things and to believe all things--we are to be patient not to some men but to all--we are to pardon those who have wronged us and defrauded us, not once or twice, but seventy times seven. Now if you have ever tried to live that life you will know something of its tremendous difficulty. If to be merciful were our one duty, it would always be hard for stubborn hearts like ours. But who does not know how its hardness is intensified when, through the crying of the call for mercy, there is heard imperiously and in the name of God the clarion voice that demands justice, if charity is not to grow degenerate, if public life is to preserve its purity, the need of justice between man and man is equally divine with that of mercy. And sometimes the hardest task a man can have is just to reconcile that call for justice with the love in Christ that is always tender-hearted, and pitiful, and ready to forgive. Life calls for the stern word as well as for the sweetness of compassion. Life calls for the resolute will and the clear brain as well as for the infinitely tender heart. And there come hours for everyone of us, sometimes at home and sometimes in our work, when the difficulty that drives us to our knees is the difficulty of these conflicting duties.
Previous Day | Today's Devotional | Next Day