Well-known white Minneapolis Reformed Baptist pastor, John Piper, sat down and wrote a book just to me. Seriously. Ok, maybe not, but it sure feels that way. In 2011, his book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian hit the American scene. However, I just discovered this hidden treasure in 2018 when a friend told me about it after reading some of my posts about racism.
I literally felt John Piper knew my heart and was addressing all the issues I was currently struggling to understand and work through concerning racism in America past and present. However, John Piper doesn’t know me. I’ve never been to his church. There is no way he could know what I am thinking. Yet, his book felt like a personal letter just to me.
Ever since August 2017, I have been looking at the world around me quite differently. How blacks live and experience life in America and how I view them and how I treat them is now on my radar. Before it wasn’t so much. I knew we had had a lot of problems in America in the past (slavery and segregation), but I thought we had moved past all that. I thought we were in a much better place today. However, after my humbling eye-opening experience in August 2017, I now know African Americans are often (if not always) having a very different American experience than I am.
Overnight I suddenly cared deeply about African Americans as a group and about racial reconciliation in America, but who else in my white Christian sphere did? I felt alone with this unexpected heavy burden for racial harmony. Then John Piper’s book entered my life. Wow. He sounds exactly like me (well, a lot more scholarly and covering a lot more information with a lot more experience and with a lot more wisdom…but, I felt we were practically carrying the same exact burden and had the same exact vision).
I love his book and would urge you to read it.
John Piper spent his first eighteen years of life in segregated Greenville, SC which is the exact same town I grew up in just over thirty years after his birth. Small world. He tells his story, his recognition of his own racism, what he has learned, and what he is doing now. He has done his research and includes perspectives from various African American leaders. He addresses the concern for personal responsibility within the black community but also considers how systemic intervention can make a positive impact. He addresses interracial marriage. And, bottom line, he encourages us to be “William Wilberforces” of our day striving for a great cause which grows out of our strong desire to know and please God (page 112).
One truth that he pointed out that I had not recognized before is that “diversity is forever.” In Heaven, skin color will continue. (page 195). John Piper understands that our diversity actually glorifies God and is a permanent part of God’s plan. However, he also states on page 227, “The bloodline of Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race.” Yes, we have diversity; but our diversity is for the sake of God’s glory not for our pride.
John Piper earnestly yearns for the authentic American church “to pursue Christ-exalting, gospel-driven racial and ethnic diversity and harmony.” (page 227) So do I. So does God (Psalm 133). There is hope for America. The gospel ALWAYS gives hope to ANY situation. But, we must not be passive. Slavery did not end because of passivity. Segregation did not end because of passivity. And, current racial tensions and symptoms of past racism will not end because we sit back and do nothing. Take action.
First, get informed. Here’s a starting point:
- Read Bloodlines.
- Listen to this 1 hour 22 minute panel that has five African American reformed baptist Christians sharing their experiences and perspectives.
- Read this relatively short article from The Gospel Coalition.
- While this next resource is not Christian, I still would recommend whites listen to these three speakers discuss structural racism, implicit bias, and white privilege. Invaluable in my opinion even if I don’t agree with everything they say and believe.
Next, reach out to actual people whose skin color is different than yours and get to know them personally. Strive to understand their viewpoint and experiences. Don’t assume that your opinion is right. Sacrifice your ego. Listen. Discuss. Grow in your love for one another.
I know race relations in America is not an easy topic to pause and consider. We seem to all have deeply embedded beliefs on the matter. Merely reading “African American” instead of “black” in this post can get some of you riled up. I ask you to lay down your pride that your way is the only way and that you have already figured everything out and instead listen to John Piper’s kind, passionate presentation in Bloodlines and reconsider your deeply rooted beliefs.
Most likely, we ALL have some more learning and growing and changing to do when it comes to loving image-bearers whose skin tone is different than our own. Please consider: White Christians once justified slavery. White Christians once justified segregation. What are white Christians in 2018 unintentionally (or perhaps for some, intentionally) justifying today?
I know racial reconciliation is NOT the only important matter of the day. However, it has been heavily on my mind these last few months and with only increasing intensity. The two greatest commands, love God, love others, are moving me to action. I have to do something. I would strongly urge you to do something as well.