Tattoos have become the order of the day and very often they hold a special meaning or message for the person.  Tattoos are almost like a public declaration of a heart intention, or personal identity, or even a declaration of love.  People wear symbols that communicate an aspect of themselves: some wear a cross to represent salvation, a wedding ring indicates the status of marriage, Jews wore the star of David,  a judge wears a wig in England, Amish dress indicates their community and so it goes on.

One mark that we a believers should all long to be on us, is it that of a servant of God?

The word translated as servant in much of the new testament is doulos.  In the Greek, that word actually means “slave.” Not “servant” as we know it, or even  “worker”; or “hired hand”; or “helper.”  It means slave.  Why this wrong translation you may ask? My research shows that in the 16th Century, when Calvin, John Knox and other translators put together the Geneva Bible, slavery had a negative connotation and so they opted for the words “servant” or “bond-servant” instead.

However, there is a big difference between a slave and servant

A slave is owned by the Master, whereas a servant is free to go.

We are owned by the Lord – Romans 14:7-8

“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

We like Paul, Peter and many others are actually “slaves to Christ,” because we belong to Christ.

So then, what is the mark of a slave of God?  Deut 15:16-17 describes the marking of a slave.

“But if your servant says to you, ‘I do not want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life.” 

The slave could voluntarily agree to the marking of their ear, out of love for the Master and his family.  This would mean that the slave would have to make a decision first, to forego his own plans and align himself to the plans and purposes of His Master.  This decision would then have the awl placed in his ear, to symbolise his commitment to the family and his love for their Master.

  • When we call Jesus our “Lord” we decide to declare Him our Master  (Rom 10:9 “…if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”).
  • Our love for Him declares us his slave, for life. By voluntarily agreeing to the marking, the slave left his old life behind, and agreed to a new life with the Master.  (2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:the old has gone, the new is here!”)
  • The slave also loved the family of the Master and in the case of Jesus our Lord, his family is the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in Christ. (Rom 12:5 “…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” )

Interesting though, that the mark is through the ear of the slave!  By choosing the ear for the marking, the servant declares a commitment to listen to the Master for life, and not just listen, but obey!  He is to be attentive to the voice of the Master and no other, obedient to all the Master asks out of love.  Imagine if we had an awl in our ear, to remind us to listen and be obedient to Jesus in our love.  Perhaps we would hear better.

It seems that love and obedience are tied up together.  Jesus said in John 14:23-24

ObedienceLoveAnyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” 

Jesus set the example for what obedience out of love looks like in John 15:10

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

Each one of us is marked as slaves to the Lord, Eph 1:13-14

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

The Spirit that takes residence in us upon belief, is the mark on us that indicates that we are slaves to the Lord.  The Spirit is not just to mark us as the possession of the Lord, but also to live in us to enable, teach, guide, rebuke, confront us and in so doing lead us into a life of total obedience.

The mark of the slave; is one of total attention to the requirements of the Master and total commitment to obedience.

  • Have you ever considered the difference between a slave and servant in relationship to God? What would be the implications of this difference in your life and how you live it?
  • Look again at the decisions taken by a servant who agreed to the marking of his ear, have you moved through this decision process yourself?  What have you not considered before?
  • In what ways has the Holy Spirit worked in your heart to shape your obedience and your desire to serve?
  • If obedience to the words of the Lord is what marks us as different in our service to the Lord, how is your obedience?

Lord thank you for your mark: the Holy Spirit in my life.  Thank you that it indicates that I am owned by You.  Help me, so that the evidence of the Spirit’s working in me will be a mark on me, namely my obedience demonstrated in day to day life.  Help me to submit, to yield to the teaching, guidance and discipline of the Spirit so that I may be ever attentive to your voice and ever obedient to what you ask me to do.  May I not just hear you, but be obedient.  Mark me as your slave.

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For further reading and meditation:

The Ear is in Hear

The Heart Regulates the Hand