I was a slave and didn't know it.
After years of being brought up in the church, I believed I knew who God was. I even had the Bible verses to prove it. And I was quick to share my knowledge with those around me: God is holy and righteous, so people who sin incur his wrath and judgment. Since I was his child, it was only natural that I extended my judgment on others.
I didn't recognize my critical spirit for what it was. I just thought I was taking a stand for God's holiness—an obedient child expecting obedience from others. I was a slave to my limited view of God.
When the Israelites were in Egyptian bondage, God revealed himself as a God of freedom. He liberated them from 400 years of slavery and taught them the freedom of belonging to the one, true, living God. He also gave them his Law to free them from the sinful lifestyles of the surrounding nations.
Yet 1,500 years later, the Pharisees developed a legalistic society in which they had once again become slaves. They'd laced the spiritual life of the nation with bondage to both the Law and what they thought the Law should be. This self-imposed slavery grew into a barrier between God and his people.
The apostle Paul, trained by a Pharisee (Acts 22:3), had also become a slave to the Law. Then he met Jesus and exchanged his bondage to the Law for bondage to Christ. In his letters, Paul identified himself as a servant or slave of Christ (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). He traded unintended slavery for a slavery that leads to ultimate freedom.1