John Piper is releasing a new book on racism later this month wherein he candidly talks about his own past racial prejudice and the power of the Cross to overcome racial prejudice in all its forms. He begins Bloodlines with a confession of his own sins and experience with racial tensions, and shares about the journey of transformation God has taken him and his Church on, on this deeply personal yet controversial subject.
“I grew up In Greenville, South Carolina, where enforced segregation was almost absolute,” he writes. Comparing his world to that of Jesse Jackson, who lived just across town, he observed that it was no wonder Jackson attended a liberal theological institution rather than a fundamental or evangelical school in the South, which were “committed to segregation.”
Despite his racist tendencies, Piper had an affection for Lucy, a black woman who came to clean the family’s home every week. His mother, a “gutsy Yankee fundamentalist,” invited Lucy to their church for his sister’s wedding—a daring move in 1962 when the congregation had voted not to allow blacks into services. Piper’s mother was the lone voice against the motion.
Along with his mother’s good example, Piper was strongly affected by a comment by an Urbana missions convention speaker in favor of interracial marriage. God’s work in his life regarding his racist attitudes continued at Fuller Seminary and beyond.
Today, working in an urban parish, he doesn’t see himself as a model multi-ethnic pastor, but his congregation is intentionally aiming for greater diversity, and not long after he turned 50, he and his wife, Noel, adopted an African-American little girl.
Piper wrote Bloodlines with the aim of seeing Christ-followers learn to live “the kind of lives that advance the cause of Christ-exalting racial diversity and Spirit-enabled racial harmony.” He sees the gospel as “the only sufficient power for this effort, and the only power that in the end will bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodlines of the cross.”
He devotes much of the book to the gospel remedy for racism, and addresses the Reformed church, acknowledging that some of its representatives have not always been good examples of racial reconciliation.
Piper also warns against another extreme—making race an idol. “Some churches have never taken the first baby steps in thinking biblically about race and ethnicity. Others devote so much focus to it that people get sick of the issue, and backlash sets in,” he writes, urging a God-centered balance.
In Bloodlines, Piper enables readers to grasp the reality and extent of racism, and then he demonstrates from Scripture how the light of the gospel penetrates the darkness of this destructive sin.