“For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).
Today many people will celebrate Valentine’s Day, a holiday where flowers, chocolates, and special dates show love. Some Latin American countries call it the Day of Love and Friendship. In the Philippines it is a popular day for weddings. Other countries have their own unique ways (and days) of celebrating. Some observances are more religious than romantic in nature, but love is the common factor.
The Bible tells of a different celebration of love, but not one honored with chocolates and flowers. This love is demonstrated by servanthood.
Few today aspire to the life of a servant, thinking it demeaning or humiliating. The biblical view of serving is far different. Instead of something to be avoided and mocked, true servanthood is valued.
In the Old Testament Israelites who became indentured because of debt gave themselves in service to a fellow Hebrew for six years. In the seventh year, the master must not only set the servant free, but also send him away with flocks and grain. The law reminded Israelites that they were once slaves in Egypt until God redeemed them, and they must therefore treat others with compassion. (Read Deuteronomy 15:12-15.)
The story of the bondservant does not end there. The law made a special provision for one who did not wish to leave his master at the seventh year.
“But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life.” (Deuteronomy 15: 16-17, NLT).
Love changed a person’s attitude on being a servant. Love was the bond that held him to his master in a lifetime commitment. From that moment on, the mark was there—a visible sign of servanthood for all to see. But it was also a mark of love.
The indentured servant was not the only one with a debt he couldn’t pay. Each of us owed debt of sin, and it was impossible for us to ever pay enough to obtain our redemption. Fortunately, we had a Kinsman who redeemed us and paid the price Himself. We are freed from the debt, but we continue to serve because of love.
The apostle Paul called himself a servant of God (Titus 1:1). The Greek word denotes one who was a bondservant. When the apostle said he bore in his body “the marks of the Lord Jesus,” this again referred to the mark of ownership or “scar of service” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). One translation speaks of him being “branded.” Paul willingly became a servant and bore the marks of love.
While both the Old and New Testament bondservants bore the mark of love, there is one striking difference in the picture. In the New Testament not only the servant but also the Master bears marks of love—the scars left by the nails that held Him to the cross.
Lord, thank You, for the price You paid to redeem me from my debt of sin. I will never be able to repay You for dying in my place, but I will commit myself to serving You and bearing Your marks as a sign of my love.