This series is contextual in nature. I’m not writing this to highlight my five favorite books. I’m not even sure that any of these would make that list anyways. But, these are five books have affected my life significantly enough over the last several years. Situations in my life magnified their impact. They come in no particular order of importance.
There is nothing more frustrating then being told by another person what you meant by your actions or words. Especially, when someone is reading far more into those actions than what you actually meant—a common problem when attempting to understand introverts. In fact, what they were reading into your actions was the furthest from your imagination. In most situations like this, you can talk it out with someone, explain yourself, and then the issue is resolved. But some people aren’t easily convinced of anything but their own interpretation. So, they’ll try to manipulate you into believing that your actions meant what they say they meant.
That’s what was happening to me. It came by way of a misinterpreted view of post-conversion anthropology. The idea is that we are still slaves to sin after conversion—though they will never say it like that. It goes something like this: All of our actions are tainted with sin. Therefore, everything we do is laced with sin. You did X, therefore your intention must have been sinful (and a particular sin at that).
These ideas stack the deck against the Christian. The Christian has a reasonable explanation for acting a certain way. He explains his reasoning, but others aren’t buying it. They mistrust the very thing being said to them.When evidence is offered in defense, it is given no credence. Of course, in this scenario, none of the accusers motives can be questioned in the same way. No real evidence is ever brought forth against the accuser other than feelings.
The above paragraph sounds preposterous, I know but it is what happened (or perhaps you are already assuming I was actually in the wrong and don’t see it). These types of situations are intense for me. I’m an INFJ so I feel within myself what people feel about me. It’s great when those are good feelings, bad when they are not, and horrible when those feelings are based on falsehood. It left me with a lot of self-doubt and those closest to me had to remind me of my words and actions with them behind closed doors that demonstrated that my intentions were different than what was being accused of me.
Enter Barth’s Epistle to the Romans.
I was beat down; down for the count; I felt unworthy; doubted everything about how I understood myself and my intentions; buoyed by my friends cheering me in the audience. I laid, busted and bleeding on the mat—down for the count. Into the ring jumped Karl Barth and took a giant swing against my opponent. His punch so jarring I felt it lying on the mat. In reference to Romans 6:18, “Being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness,” he said:
Their bondage to sin has been broken, and they have become servants of righteousness. The power of the resurrection, the knowledge of God who quickeneth the dead, has converted them—yes! has converted THEM!, since their conversion was no mechanical process…To the man under grace, righteousness is not a possibility, but a necessity; not a disposition subject to change, but the inexorable meaning of life; not a condition possessing varying degrees of healthiness, but the condition by which existence is itself determined; not that which he possesses, but that which possess him. (p. 219–220)
I looked up, there stood Barth over my opponent like Ali over Liston. That day Barth became my champion.