The man who recognizes the truth of any human relation, and neglects the duty involved, is not a true man. The man who takes good care of himself, and none of his brother and sister, is false. A man may be a poet, aware of the highest truth of a thing, he may be a man who would not tell a lie, or steal, or slander—and yet he may not be a true man, inasmuch as the essentials of manhood are not his aim: having nowise come to the flower of his own being, nowise attained the truth of that for which he exists—neither is he striving after the same. Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. But he has relations with his fellow man, to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher, to the less plain. The very nature of a man depends upon these relations. They are truths, and the man is a true man as he fulfills them. Fulfilling them perfectly, he is himself a living truth. The fulfillments of these truths are duties. Man is so constituted as to understand them at first more than he can love them, with the resulting advantage of having thereby the opportunity of choosing them purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible. Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.
by Dave Roney
From the Lower to the Higher...
Duty, at its lowest level, may be similar to a seashell; a calcified remnant and reminder of that which once inhabited it and was alive. And when a man does his duty, it is then like unto the living oyster within the shell; but when his duty is in its highest form, then it is the shell containing the living organism in whose bosom is found the pearl of great price. What a man may first do out of his sense of duty will, when he has enlarged sufficiently, be done from love; and the upward nature of love is to follow a staircase of ascending steps, leading up through the stars, to the very throne of The Heart, Who is Love personified. Duty alone is the lowest level, but also the first step in the gestation of love. A man may not at the beginning understand his duty to be love, may for a long time think that duty is only a creaturely discipline born of necessity, to be done whether he desires it or not, as a thing which he must bend himself to, a thing which he might well turn away from if only he could. Yet, even at this lowest of the upward leading steps, he is a man if he shoulders the thing before him as he understands it, does the next right thing according to how he knows what is the right. But to him who refuses his duty, who ignores it or else excuses himself from it, his duty remains as the empty seashell on the shore of his life. And he is no man yet, for:
“The man who recognizes the truth of any human relation, and neglects the duty involved, is not a true man.”
Man is made in the image of God, and God is duty bound, thus also is mankind. But the duty of God is not performed under constraints as is that of fallen and broken man; His duty is the highest form of love and love is selfless, devoted, sacrificial in nature, preferring others above Self and thinking, saying, and doing in accordance with that self-forgettingness to the benefit of others. Whatever is good for God is good for man, and whatever is truly good for man is good for God. Did we suppose, then, that duty is for man alone and not for God? The difference between the creature's accomplishment of his duty and that by God has to do with the stimulus for doing it; in man it is obligation, in God it is wholehearted desire springing from the fount of His love. A man may regret he must do his duty, may slack from it, may do it through sheer will power alone when his inner will is to run from it, but with God it is His singular desire to do His duty regardless of personal cost to Himself, no matter what depth of despair He must enter to do it, or humiliation He must suffer, or how long His patience is taxed; He will not be turned aside, and cannot be turned unless His Love fails Him, which is impossible. The duty of man is ultimately, and exaltedly, to be done even as God does; and such a man is the true man.
But in all of life man must ever begin with the first and lowest step in his staircases; he might desire to be the corporate boss, the pinnacle and highest step, but must begin in the warehouse, the first and lowest step. Or, if he is a soldier, his desire may be to be a general, yet he must start at the lowest step as a cadet. Or, if cuisine he may plan to be a great chef, yet must begin by peeling potatoes. And that for which man is fitted, which is to love divinely, he may have to begin with only an empty seashell to flesh in before he can produce the great pearl. Love knows no caste system, and no man is bound to remain in lowly estate but is ever encouraged to take the next higher step, which leads to a yet higher, then higher still, until at the end he has become the very image of Christ Jesus, and what he understood of duty is transformed.
Duty, no matter what the form it takes, always has to do with relationships. The highest relationship is that one which mirrors the Divine relationship existing within the Trinity and for each of us to, through the Atoner, be ushered into that relationship as God shares with us even His Own divine nature. But it seems a far greater distance from God to us than is our neighbor, easier for us to love those whom we have seen than Him Whom we have not, and God has through others given us the opportunity to begin ascending the staircase which leads to Him:
“Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. But he has relations with his fellow man, to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher, to the less plain. The very nature of a man depends on these relations.”
Man, broken by sin, understands earthly duty better than God; and by his brokenness he is “so constituted to understand them [duties] at first more than he can love them.” But if the man's heart is true, or becoming true, he will begin to see the truth in his duty, and seeing the truth in the thing he will then begin to love his duty. For a man cannot be true except he love that which is true, and this loving of that which is true leads, step by step, to the source and fount of truth, The Truth personified, his God. So, then, a man will “have thereby the opportunity of choosing them [duties] purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible.” Throughout the ascending steps of the man's growth is God ever present, ever through the Spirit guiding him into Truth; it is salvation, to be made well as by a process, an ever increasing spiritual state of health and wholeness; it is to first discover and embrace the heart of Christ and then, as to understanding, the mind of Christ as well, which leads us to conclude:
“Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.”