Book Review: Bloodlines

One of the most thought-provoking and heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read in my life is John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.  In this book, Piper is very open about his own shortcomings in a way that immediately builds the trust of the reader.  I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee…one of the most racially divided cities in America.  Not only did this book challenge my thinking on diversity, but overall it caused me to consider my own understanding of what the cross really means in light of the gospel.  I am normally a very fast reader, but I read this book carefully and thoughtfully so as not to miss a thing.  As always, Piper’s book is a vehicle to point people to Jesus rather than to his own opinions and thoughts.  I believe that every leader should be required to read this book and every believer should desire to make this manifesto one of the single greatest goals of their life.

I highlighted several things while reading.  I posted most of them below and hope they will somehow challenge your thinking and whet your appetite for this great work…

  • The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race.
  • In the summer of 2004, the Presbyterian Church in America settled on the following definition, which I find helpful: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”
  • Will we be extremists for hate or love? (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • I believe that the gospel–the good news of Christ crucified in our place to remove the wrath of God and provide forgiveness of sins and power for sanctification–is our only hope for the kind of racial diversity and harmony that ultimately matters.
  • For what does it profit a man if he gains complete diversity and loses his own soul?
  • I long to see the followers of Christ, especially myself, living the kind of lives that advance the cause of Christ-exalting racial diversity and Spirit-enabled racial harmony.  I pray this book serves that end.
  • As imperfect as I am in my own pursuit of racial and ethnic harmony, I am not where I was.  This is owing to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have no boast.  Therefore, I am a glad debtor to Christians and non-Christians to bear witness to the grace of God in the gospel and how it frees from the slavery of racism.
  • Unbelievers cannot pursue Jesus-exalting racial diversity and harmony.
  • The aim is biblical maturity–thoughtful, balanced, careful, informed, humble, experienced, wise, Jesus-exalting, God-centered, gospel-strengthened growth in the way we think and talk and act in regard to race and ethnicity–and in relation to real people different from ourselves.
  • Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. (Psalm 67:4)
  • Not only is the population in general growing and moving in ways that throw us into more diverse relationships, but the Christian church is undergoing dramatic demographic shifts that will increasingly marginalize people who are not eager to be a part of something more diverse and less white.
  • I hope this new ethnic reality inclines our hearts to know and love our Christian brothers and sisters who are ethnically different from ourselves and makes us eager and ready to be genuine partners with them in the great challenges of missions before us.
  • I pray the reality of ever-nearer racial and ethnic diversity will make us go deeper into the grace of the gospel so that our roots are strong, when change seems overwhelming or even threatening.
  • I pray we would increasingly bear the fruit of the gospel in the pursuit of Christ-exalting ethnic diversity and harmony.
  • None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)
  • There is overwhelming guilt in every human heart.  We are sinners.
  • Holding our tongues does not usually advance understanding, deepen respect, warm the affections, or motivate action.
  • Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody’s platform.
  • He came so that the only kind of racial diversity and racial harmony we would pursue is Jesus-exalting, God-glorifying, and gospel-formed.
  • The gospel is not a political adviser standing to the side waiting to be asked for guidance.  It is the arrival of God saving people from their sin and from the everlasting wrath of God, giving them teh Holy Spirit, and bringing their lives progressively into conformity to Jesus.
  • It is incalculable what the personal and relational dynamics would be in all our racial relations if we were set free with overflowing joy and gratitude that our guilt had been taken away.
  • Where pride holds sway, there is no hope for the kind of listening and patience and understanding and openness to correction that relationships require.
  • What is impossible with me is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)
  • Who can begin to describe the possibilities of reconciliation and harmony where the work of Christ replaces the hatred with love, anger with patience, and blaming with forgiving, and all of this without surrendering a passion that justice must be done?
  • Christian life means to get up in the morning and go to bed at night dreaming not about how to advance my comforts but how to advance some great God-centered cause.
  • May we never lose sight of this one phrase: “Brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).  Brought near to God and therefore brought near to each other.  By the blood.  By the cross.
  • The question of why the church is not more quick and successful in exposing and overcoming sin corporately is very much connected to the question of why we as individuals are not more quick and successful in exposing and overcoming sin personally.
  • The doctrine of total depravity has a huge role to play in humbling all ethnic groups and giving us a desperate camaraderie of condemnation leading to the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
  • When we understand that God’s act of justifying the ungodly (Romans 4:5) is by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, we begin to see how shattering it is to ethnocentrism and racial pride.
  • No matter what the skin color or facial features or hair texture or other genetic or cultural traits, every human being in every ethnic group has an immortal soul in the image of God: a mind with unique, God-like reasoning powers, a heart with capacities for moral judgments and spiritual affections, and a potential for relationship with God that transforms us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.  This “image of God” sets every person utterly apart from all the animals, which God has made.  Every human being–whatever color, shape, age, gender, intelligence, health, or social class–is made in the image of God.
  • Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!  Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all the gods. (Psalm 96:1-4)
  • The total fabric of God’s salvation cannot be torn apart.  It is all woven together.
  • If the kind of love that pursues racial harmony is woven into the very fabric of God’s sovereign, sanctifying grace, and if therefore loving like that is part of what it means to be a Christian, then the promise of perseverance is a promise to keep us pursuing racial harmony till we die or till Jesus comes.
  • In their book More Than Equals, Chris Rice and Spencer Perkins add, “Reconciliation requires exposing our vital organs to the truth that we speak to each other….When we build trust and stay on the table to teh end of the surgery, there is hope for healing in the most delicate and vital places of our racial residue.”
  • If we have not loved, we will perish, because there will be no evidence that we are born again and justified by faith.
  • Partiality reveals a judging heart and behind it evil thinking.
  • Partiality dishonors people created in the image of God.
  • If we are trusting Jesus, then his glory will put us in our rightfully humble place, and it will make us safe.  And from that lowly and safe place will flow love, not partiality.  Mercy, not racial disrespect.
  • Diversity will not disappear in the new heaven and the new earth.  God willed it from the beginning.  It has a permanent place in his plan.
  • The more diverse the people groups who forsake their gods to receive the grace of the true God and follow Christ, the more visible is the superior beauty and power of Christ over all his competitors.
  • The aim of this book is to show that God’s pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity through the work of Christ on the cross is part of the larger aim of the cross to display the supreme worth of the glory of God’s grace.
  • Separation has never produced mutual understanding and respect.  It has produced ignorance, suspicion, impersonal stereotyping, demeaning innuendo, and corporate self-exaltation.
  • Christians are people who move toward need and truth and justice, not toward comfort and security.  Life is hard.  But God is good.  And Christ is strong to help.
  • We will celebrate the beauty, and we will embrace the burden.  Both will be good for us, and good for the world, and good for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God.
  • When we feel or think or act with disdain or disrespect or avoidance or exclusion or malice toward a person simply because he or she is of another race or another ethnic group, we are, in effect, saying that Jesus acted in a foolish way toward us.  You don’t want to say that.
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ–the death and the resurrection of the Son of God for sinners–is the only sufficient power for this effort, and the only power that in the end will bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.  It is the only power to bring about Christ-exalting harmony, which, in the end, is the only kind that matters, because all things were made through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).  To his grace, and his name, and his Father be glory forever.  Amen.


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