The late David Plaster shaped my theology of duty. I would crawl into his office once a week and lament my lack of passion for Christ. I loved studying paradigms and ancient customs, but I never wanted to clap in chapel, read the Bible, or pray with classmates. I practiced spiritual disciplines and sheered my sheep out of duty. Passion-free, loveless duty.
Even a lazy reading of the OT prophets portrays duty as a vice.
"I am sick of your sacrifices," says the LORD. "Don't bring me any more burnt offerings! I don't want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don't want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats." (Is. 1:11)
"I hate all your show and pretense-- the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is." (Amos 5:21-23)
Jesus reiterates the message in John 4, telling the adulterous woman that God is seeking worshipers whose affection is true and spiritual. Worship as mere form is unacceptable. Duty chants an ugly chorus.
Dr. Plaster challenged my guilt-ridden concept of duty. "It's not all bad. Duty can also guard you." His exhortations were as common as the shame for feeling passionless.
Duty could guard me from procrastination, pornography, and plagiarism. Duty could guard me from pride, chapel fines, and speeding tickets. Duty could guard me from the most selfish and indolent sectors of my heart.
Though to be certain, duty would not draw me to the heart of the Father. It tastes too much of Tartar.