The Verse of the Day for May 22, 2016 brings to mind one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Bible, an extraordinary paradox that continues to baffle all those who encounter the duality of freedom and servanthood, the distinction between “bond and free.” One of the scriptures that highlights the paradox of being free yet choosing to serve is found in Galatians 5:13 (AMP):
For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another.
The New Living Translation offers this rendering:
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
In discussing the two concepts of freedom and serving one another, one encounters a most provocative, related term translated from the Greek word doulos, meaning “servant”, “bond servant,” or “bond-slave,” or “slave.” In fact, the verb “to serve” in Galatians 5:13 is derived from the Greek word doulos and has been translated “to be a slave, to serve or render service or serving.”
Paul reiterates the message that though as a believer he is free in Christ, yet he chooses to serve others:
1 Corinthians 9:19 (AMP):
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ].
As believers the state or condition whereby we have been called to salvation is liberty or freedom: freedom from the yoke of bondage, freedom from the chains that bind us in sin. We are, however, not to use our freedom as an occasion for the flesh or as an excuse or pretext for indulging our selfish desires. Instead, we are to be servants, those bound by love to serve one another.
In the midst of our times that preclude a super-abundant harvest season, we must learn
To Serve and To Sow
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5, 6
We learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,
To pour from the fountain of our souls and to give
All our strength to the Lord’s work and to do our part
To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,
For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.
The legacy that fulfills God’s will lives beyond
The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain.
This precious token of our covenant, the bond
Of devotion to the Master, perfected love
Is shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in peace
That passes understanding, flowing from above.
As we plant and water, our God gives the increase.
Freely we have received that we might come to know
The love of God, as we learn to serve and to sow.
The Verse of the Day brought to mind once more the significance of the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond-slave” as revealed in the Scriptures. The portrayal of this Biblical figure has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America. In the early 1970s or thereabout, I was introduced to the previously mentioned Greek term “doulos.” In 1975 I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. A year ago, I re-posted a blog here at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” which also featured the original article along with poetry and music videos related to the term “doulos.” Click here to access a link to that entry that might be of interest.
Without question, “to serve” is one of the most powerful verbs in the English language. Listen to this excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct,” unforgettable sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, who unfolds the beauty and simplicity in the words “To serve.”