I still remember my Boy Scout oath: "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
Today, the idea of doing something simply because it is the right thing to do has fallen out of fashion. Instead, it's more along the lines of: "What's in it for me?"
But as Christians, we are commanded to do our duty. Sometimes though, many of us are reluctant. That's when we must remember we are the purchased property of Jesus Christ.
More than once, the Bible likens us to slaves for whom Jesus Christ comes and bids for our freedom. He pays the price. Then He takes us to serve Him. We were slaves to sin under the power of Satan, and then Jesus purchased our freedom with His own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20).
For example, my two sons have all of the privileges that go along with being my sons. But with those privileges come responsibility. When I ask them to do something, I don't beg or plead with them. I don't say, "Would you please, if you have time in your busy schedule, take out the trash?" I just say, "Take out the trash." But I would never say to someone walking by my house, "Hey you. Take out the trash." I would like to, but I can't. But I can say that to my own sons.
In the same way, God has given us all of the privileges and perks that come with our relationship as His sons and daughters. But we also have responsibilities. I want to bring three of those responsibilities to your attention, found in Luke 17:1-4.
One, don't cause someone to stumble spiritually (vv. 1–2). It is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come. But the person who causes another believer to stumble spiritually or fall away commits a very serious offense. According to this verse, it literally would be better to die than to be responsible for driving someone from the Christian faith. Therefore, we need to seriously consider the kind of examples we are as followers of Jesus.
Two, we need to care enough to correct those who fall into sin (v. 3). This isn't easy to do, but it's something we are to do if we care about each other and are doing our duty as followers of Jesus (see James 5:19). If a fellow Christian has deliberately gone astray, what are we to do? According to the Scripture, we are to go to that person, try to reach him or her, and bring that fellow believer back.
Three, we are to forgive (vv. 3–5). Let's say that the same person you reprove falls into sin, makes a mess out of his or her life, and in the process, says unkind, libelous, false things about you. Then he or she comes back and says, "I have been thinking about all of these things. My life is a mess. I repent. I have asked God to forgive me. Would you forgive me?"
Even if someone has sinned against you many times, you should be willing to forgive. It is better to forgive multiple times, even if that person is not sincere, than to refuse to forgive a truly repentant person and thus place a stumbling block in the way. A man once said to the famed preacher, John Wesley, "I never forgive, and I never forget." Wesley responded, "Then sir, I hope you never sin."
Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:7 NKJV). I immediately gravitate toward the latter part of this great promise because I like the reference to what I desire.
However, if I am maintaining a living communion with God, and if His Word is at home in me, then it is going to change what I pray for. Instead of praying for health and wealth, I should be doing my duty to be a good example and not stumble people, reprove people who need it, and forgive others.
We have accepted the privileges. We must also accept the responsibilities. We will wear the crown; therefore, we must bear the cross. We must think about how our lives affect other people.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!