It is a BLOOD-OF-JESUS Issue
As a pastor committed to racial-reconciliation, justice, compassion, the cross of Christ and the gospel, it is CRAZY that the title of this post is even necessary. Unfortunately, such is the state of thinking about the gospel in the American church. There is a “hole in our gospel” as one writer has put it. We are too narrowly focused on salvation issues and not focused enough on the gospel implications of what it means to be saved “for good works” (Eph. 2:10).
For nearly 20 years, I was the pastor of an intentionally-planted, multi-ethnic church that at the end of that 20 year run celebrated a congregation composed of saints from 23 countries of birth. It was glorious. It wasn’t perfect but it was at least a grainy (and colorful) picture of what heaven will be when all the saints down through the ages gather around the throne of the Spotless Lamb of God. You can read about that church if you are interested, in book edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos titled A Heart for the Community (Moody Press, 2009). My chapter is labeled “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Suburban Church.”
So it is with a mixture of delight and sadness that I post this brief offering from Kairos Journal cited from Dr. John Piper’s brilliant book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, 2002). It is timeless and helpful for the church as we mourn and seek to make a difference in our world so that the events in Ferguson, MO becomes a thing of the past.
A Blood-of-Jesus Issue—John Piper (1946 – )
John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. By any measure, he is also one of the most widely regarded Christian leaders in America. Ministering in downtown Minneapolis, Piper has been forced to think deeply and profoundly about racial prejudice. His words to fellow pastors are a stirring—even jarring—call to both repentance and action.
The issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus issue. When you get the conviction and the courage to say something about it to your people, tell them you are not becoming a social-gospeler but a lover of the blood-bought blessings of the cross of Christ. . . .
[Revelation 5:9-10] is a glimpse into the purposes of God in the death of His Son, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ:
“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You [referring to the slain and risen Lamb of God] to take the book [that is, the book of history in the last days] and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (NASB).
The implications here for racial and ethnic harmony in the church are staggering when you let it sink in. The price of God’s securing ethnic diversity in the “priesthood,” and the “kingdom” is the death of His Son. The design of the atonement is racial diversity in the company of the redeemed. Applying and pursuing this is not merely a “social issue.” It is a blood-of-Jesus issue. That is what it cost. And that is how important it is.
Not only that, we can up the ante even more. Notice that in Revelation 5:9 this diversity was purchased “for God.” “You . . . purchased for God . . . men from every tribe”(NASB). The issue is not only a blood-of-Jesus issue, it is a glory-of-God issue. Blood-bought racial diversity and harmony is for the glory of God through Christ. It is all aiming at the all-satisfying, everlasting, God-centered, Christ-exalting experience of many-colored worship.
If the pursuit of ethnic diversity and harmony in the company of the redeemed cost the Father and the Son such a price, should we expect that it will cost us nothing? Or that it will be easy? No, the devil, who hates the glory of God and despises the aims of the cross, will not relent without a fierce battle.
To join God in pursuing racial diversity and racial harmony will be costly for you and your church—so costly that many will try it for a while and then give up and walk away from the effort to easier things.
But some will persevere and be found doing their duty when the Master comes. Be among that number, brothers. There is an old African-American prayer chant that calls us to “a mighty long journey.”
It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way;
It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way.
That’s where we are in the American church—on a journey toward the perfect experience of Revelation 5:9-10. And we want as much of it now as we can, don’t we? So the world will see the glory of God and the worth of Christ. So, brothers, read and study and pray and preach and take the risks necessary to sever the root of racism.1
1 John Piper, “Brothers, Sever the Root of Racism,” in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 197-209. Brackets and ellipses in Scripture quotations are Piper’s.