Saturday, February 25, 2012


One of my ancestors was an indentured servant. Jonathan Burch Walker died, leaving his son, Jonathan B. Walker (so they couldn't afford a "baby names" book...) an orphan. The year was 1824.

Young Jonathan was indentured to a man name George Murphey, who, in exchange for the boy's service, was ordered to "cause him to be learned to read & write & arithmetic so far as the order of three inclusive," teach him to be a "waggon maker" and give him a good suit of clothes upon his release at age 21.

It's an interesting glimpse into a very different, yet not too distant, world. I've not known anyone "indentured." (Originally, two identical copies of an agreement would be handwritten on a piece of paper, one right below the other, then cut apart with a unique wavy line, the "dents". A piece was given to each party, and they could be fitted back together to prove the authenticity of the agreement).

This morning I wondered how being such a bond servant shaped young Jonathan's life, and if any of the resulting characteristics might have even been passed down to our family members through the generations. Was he a willing and hard worker? Was Mr. Murphey kind or harsh?

I too, of course, am bound to serve. Paul starts the book of Romans by calling himself a bond-servant of Christ. Then in II Corinthians 4:5 he says, "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake." He was bound to serve those around him.

The first commitment, if seldom easy, seems at least a little more intuitive. Christ is obviously worthy to receive all glory and honor, as well as our meager service.

Serving others, however, often requires me to go back to an agreement I made. I received unmerited grace and mercy on the day Christ saved me. Certainly nothing I "earned" in that transaction. In response, however, I bound myself to Christ, and committed to follow Him, and to serve others as He did. To go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them to obey. To visit orphans and widows in their distress. To be His hands and feet.

I wonder what that's going to look like today?

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