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21 AUG 2023 | Bondslaves

I remember an incident from my university days that left a lasting impression on me. It was an evening when I was riding the MRT home, contemplating whether I should get my ear pierced. However, my perspective shifted when I noticed a young girl sitting across from me, cradled in her mother's arms. The girl was clearly in distress, moaning and writhing in pain – she just had her ears pierced! In that moment, my wavering thoughts about ear piercing solidified into a firm decision!


This experience reminded me of an intriguing tradition in ancient Israel related to ear piercing. This practice wasn't rooted in vanity, but rather served as a symbolic expression of love and commitment. In ancient Israel, if a Hebrew man found himself in dire circumstances and sold himself into slavery, he would serve his master for a period of six years. Upon completing these six years, he would be granted his freedom, free from any debts. However, an alternative option existed: if he had developed a deep affection for his master and the household he served, he could voluntarily choose to remain. In this case, a ritual took place. The master would take an awl and pierce the man's ear, securing his permanent status as a slave of the master (Deuteronomy 15:12-17).


While the concept of slavery is widely condemned in today's world, and rightfully so, because of the importance of human freedom and autonomy, this ancient practice carries an important message. It reflects the profound connection between the master and the servant—one based on genuine affection and commitment rather than coercion. This historical context helps shed light on passages in the New Testament, such as the writings of the Apostle Paul, where he identifies himself as a "slave of God." Additionally, Paul encourages believers to view themselves in a similar light. This parallel can be discomforting in a society that values personal agency and autonomy, as it seems to imply submission and servitude. However, understanding the historical context of the Israelite tradition adds depth to this metaphor.


Just as the Hebrew servant willingly chose to remain with his master out of love and loyalty, those of us who have been touched by the transformative love of God through Jesus Christ may choose to offer ourselves in service to our divine Master. This act isn't about relinquishing our autonomy, but rather about embracing a deep bond of love and commitment. It's akin to the profound relationship between the Hebrew servant and his master, where the decision to stay wasn't a relinquishing of freedom but an affirmation of love and devotion.


Personally, I've decided against getting my ear pierced, but I hold the symbolism of this ancient practice close to my heart. It serves as a poignant reminder of my identity as a willing slave of God—a relationship founded on love, devotion, and an understanding of the unique bond that transcends the historical context of ancient traditions.


Rev. David Lee


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