Posts Tagged ‘Doulos’

To serve is not a dirty word

May 22, 2021

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2021 comes from Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation and highlights the paradox between freedom and servitude:

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.

This verse and other related scriptures bring to mind the idea of the servant or slave who has been set free. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America.

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. 

Being a doulos involves a deep commitment to one’s Lord and Master.

The term doulos has become an intricate part of my life since I first learned of the concept of the “bond servant” or “bond slave” back in the early 70s. As used in the Bible, doulos is a metaphor that I have personalized and internalized. I explored the concept in master’s thesis which looked at the literary style of Paul in the Church Epistles, where he opens the Book of Romans with his “calling card”: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle (note the order).” Beyond its biblical significancethat, the concept is deeply embedded into my soul, in that it has become the essence of who I am, as I attempt to express in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence, I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

The basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bond servants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee,”  alluding to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a  bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos.

Paradox: Free to serve

May 22, 2018

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2018 brings to mind one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Bible, an extraordinary paradox that continues to baffle many of those who encounter the duality of being free yet choosing to serve, the notable 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 (NKJV):

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve 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 portrayal 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 same Greek word 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 also brings to mind once more the significance of the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond-slave” translated from the previously mentioned Greek term “doulos.” 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 term which provided the original inspiration for an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave” which has been re-posted along with poetry and music videos related to the term. 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.”

We conclude with Frontline Music offering a Galatians Meditation based on Galatians 5:13-15 which includes the Verse of the Day:

To serve

May 22, 2016

Galatians-5-13

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.”

To be first, become last, and serve others first

January 29, 2016

Mark-9 35

Revised and re-posted from a previous entry, the Verse of the Day for January 29, 2016 speaks of the oxymoronic nature of true servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great.

Mark 9:35 puts this way in the King James Version:

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Jesus Christ illustrates the same point that those who desire to be first should put themselves last and serve others first. Other places in the Scriptures also reveal this striking portrait of a true servant of the Lord:

Luke 22:26 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

A similar response occurs in Mark 10:43 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

A particularly noteworthy verse is found in Matthew 20:27 (NLT):

and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

In following in the steps of Jesus Christ, one of the most noble character traits that a person can demonstrate is that of serving others. Throughout the life and ministry of Christ, he takes upon himself the form of a servant, thus modeling the behavior that he desires to see his followers emulate.

In the New Testament we find that the metaphor of the servant or bondslave is used in the Bible to portray this admirable heart of service. The distinction between the term “slave” and the “bond servant” which is translated from the Greek word doulos in the New Testament is that the servant or bondslave offers his life in “voluntary servitude.” Though often looked upon in a negative light, choosing to become a servant of the Lord is a most admirable character trait.

My attraction to this particular metaphor occurred more than 40 years ago when I was introduced to the concept of the doulos, translated “servant” but more accurately rendered “bondslave.” I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave” published in 1975. 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. Aside from a purely academic exploration of the topic of the bondslave, I have also endeavored to apply the precepts of this biblical term in a practical way. I express my personal application of the principles of servitude found in this intriguing figure in the poem “More Than Metaphor”:

More than Metaphor

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me:
and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another,
Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it

Matthew 8:9

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,
Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,
To express my deep yearning for intimacy.
Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”
Each fiber of my being and each emotion
Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.
As I endeavor to learn and live to impart
The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,
I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,
As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,
To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,
To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.
Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor
Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.”

Listen to “The Servant Song” by Maranatha! Promise Band, as we close this blog entry.

Mary’s song and mine

December 16, 2015

Luke 1-46-47

The Verse of the Day for December 16, 2015 is part of a passage of Scripture described as “Mary’s Song” or the Magnificat, a term derived from the first word of Mary’s reply in the Latin Vulgate, meaning “to magnify.”
Luke 1:46-47, 49:

[The Magnificat] And Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory].

Her response to the revelation that she will bring forth the Messiah can be seen as an expression of praise and worship. Mary responds by extolling and glorifying the Lord with her whole being. From the depths of her soul she offers praise to God that overflows in true worship from her spirit, as she rejoices in God, the source of life and salvation.

Jeremy Myers points out that the song ties beautifully with poetry and prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures: “This shows a tie between the Messiah they were hoping for and the Messiah who has come. The song of Mary is very similar to Hannah’s prayer for her miracle son (1 Samuel 2), as well as many of the Psalms (e.g., Psalms, 8, 33, 47, 100, 135, 136).”

Earlier in the passage from Luke 1, Mary reflects upon the message of the angel and responds:

Luke 1:38:

Then Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

She makes reference to herself as a “servant” or “slave” or in some translations “a handmaiden,” terms which are translated from the Greek word doule, the feminine counterpart of doulos—a word expressing the depth of commitment as a bondslave. Mary’s response was the inspiration for this original song:

Be It unto Me

The angel spoke to Mary, the handmaid of the Lord,
That she would bear the Son of God; Jesus would be his name.
She said, “How can these things be, since I know no man?”
Gabriel said, “With God nothing shall be impossible”,
And this is what Mary said,

Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me, according to your word.
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.

Here I stand before you, a bondslave of the Lord.
I only want to serve you, to honor and obey.
I yield my life in service; use me as you choose.
I humble myself before you and like Mary,
This is what I say,

Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me, according to your word.
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Behold, the servant of the Lord.

The love of God constrains you. He calls you to His side.
He wants you for His service. Won’t you answer Him today?
The pressures and the pleasures still pull you away.
All He asks of you is that you trust Him and obey.
And like Mary, won’t you say,

Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me, according to your word.

Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Behold, the servant of the Lord.

Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me, according to your word.
Be it unto me,
Be it unto me,
Behold, the servant, the bondslave, of the Lord.

In further reflecting upon the passage from Luke 1, we note similarities in the lyrics to “O Magnify the Lord” offered by Jonathan Butler.

O magnify the Lord
For He is worthy
To be praised
O magnify the Lord
For He is worthy
To be praised

Hosanna
Blessed be the Rock
Blessed be the Rock
Of my Salvation

Bought with a price

August 12, 2015

1 Corinthians-6 20The Verse of the Day for August 12, 2015 comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT):

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

The Amplified Bible renders the two verses this way:

19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,

20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

This passage, in making reference to one who has been “bought with a price,” “a purchased possession,” brings to mind the idea of the servant or slave. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave.,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance at this time, in light of the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, a document that changed the legal status of millions from “slave” to “free.”

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. Four years ago, I posted a blog at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” that is revised and re-posted in light of the Verse of the Day.

doulosFor more than forty years I have been studying the term doulos, which has been translated “servant, bond-servant, bondslave, slave.” Accompanying my study has been a desire to see its personal application in my life. The concept has thus become deeply embedded into my soul, revealing the essence of who I am, expressed in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

basin and towelThe basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bondslave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

            John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bondservants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee” which alludes to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17 

 

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos

 

Put others first and you will be great

January 29, 2015

Mark-9 35

The Verse of the Day for January 29, 2015 speaks of the oxymoronic nature of true servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great.

Mark 9:35 (NLT)

He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Other places in the Scriptures also reveal this striking portrait of a true servant of the Lord:

Luke 22:26 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

A similar response occurs in Mark 10:43 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

A particularly noteworthy verse is found in Matthew 20:27 (NLT):

And whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

In following in the steps of Jesus Christ, one of the most noble character traits that a person can demonstrate is that of serving others. Throughout the life and ministry of Christ, he takes upon himself the form of a servant, thus modeling the behavior that he desires to see his followers emulate.

In the New Testament we find that the metaphor of the servant or bondslave is used in the Bible to portray this admirable heart of service. The distinction between the term “slave” and the “bond servant” which is translated from the Greek word doulos in the New Testament is that the servant or bondslave offers his life in “voluntary servitude.” Though often looked upon in a negative light, choosing to become a servant of the Lord is a most admirable character trait.

My attraction to this particular metaphor occurred more than 40 years ago when I was introduced to the concept of the doulos, translated “servant” but more accurately rendered “bondslave.” I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave” published in 1975. 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. Aside from a purely academic exploration of the topic of the bondslave, I have also endeavored to practically apply the precepts of this biblical term. I express my application of the principles of servitude found in this intriguing figure in the poem “More Than Metaphor”:

More than Metaphor

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me:

and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another,

Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it

Matthew 8:9

 

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.”

 

Listen to “The Servant Song” by Maranatha! Promise Band, as we close this blog entry.

Doulos: Free to serve

January 8, 2011

Galatians-5-13Taken from Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2015 highlights the paradox between freedom and servitude:

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.

This verse and other related scriptures bring to mind the idea of the servant or slave who has been set free. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America.

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. Four years ago, I posted a blog at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” that I am revising and re-posting in celebration of the original article published 40 years ago.

Being a doulos involves a deep commitment to one’s Lord and Master.

The term doulos has become an intricate part of my life since I first learned of the concept of the “bond servant” or “bond slave” back in the early 70s. Last year I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my publishing an article entitled “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave.” As used in the Bible, doulos is a metaphor that I have personalized and internalized. I explored the concept in Master’s thesis which looked at the literary style of Paul in the Church Epistles, where he opens the Book of Romans with his “calling card”: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle (note the order).”  In my Ph.D. dissertation I looked at the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond slave” in the Bible and in the works of four African American poets who were influenced by the Bible. Beyond that, the concept is deeply embedded into my soul, in that it has become the essence of who I am. I attempt to express that essence in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

The basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

            John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bond servants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee” which alludes to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17 

 

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a  bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos