from the desk of…Do I have to?

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By Diane O’Brien, Lt. Colonel

You’ve all heard it, and most of us have said it. I suppose it comes most often from the lips of children. However, although we may know better than to say it out loud, many of us feel it from time to time: Do I have to?

I used to hear it most frequently from my sons. Some of you who know my family will understand that having heard the boys say this type of thing, the girls were smart enough not to make the same mistake! In tones every parent would recognize, I remember my boys saying things like, “Do I have to go to Sunday school? Do I have to wear my junior soldier uniform?” And the instant reply from their father came, “No, you don’t have to. You get to!”

A detailed explanation of why it was a privilege would often follow.

My questions are not much more sophisticated. There are still days when I ask things like: Do I have to go in to work? I just don’t feel like it. Do I have to greet people with a smile? I just feel grumpy today and it’s my turn to be looked after. Do I have to resist temptation? After all, it’s just one little thing, and something that feels so good surely can’t be bad for me.

Or the even more important questions with the sometime answer: Do I have to ask God to forgive my sins? There will be time for that another day. A good answer is found in Psalm 95:6-8: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

Do I have to “live a life that is clean in thought, word and deed?” Although that’s the promise I made as a junior soldier when I was 8 years old, I would like to just do anything I want today. A good answer is found in Romans 8:5: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  

Do I have to be a Salvation Army officer? If God wants me to be an full-time officer he should make it so that I have no other choice. A good answer is found in 1 Peter 5:2-3: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

As always, the answer is that I don’t have to. I get to. I get to have my sins forgiven by a wonderful redeemer. By the power of his Holy Spirit, I get to live a holy life. By the graciousness of his calling and equipping, I get to spend all my days in his service. And I even get to wear uniform every day.

And, dear reader, it all applies to you too. Do you have to ask for forgiveness? Do you have to live a holy life, choosing good over wrong? For some of you the question will be if you have to be a Salvation Army officer. No, you don’t have to. But by his infinite grace, you get to!


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