John 17 records the prayer of Jesus as He anticipates the cross and the shedding of His blood for those He came to save. As His hour arrives, what does He pray to God the Father? He prays for the unity of the Church. He petitions for the church to grow in the truth and come together in unity as a witness to a dying and divided world. Why does Jesus pray about these things as He is headed to the cross? He prays in this way because the power of the gospel is found in the truth of Jesus Christ and seen by unity based on Jesus Christ. This is what makes Dr. John Perkins’s new book One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race a gift to the church. At eighty-seven years old, Dr. Perkins realizes his time is growing shorter. As a black man, he has witnessed a lot of division and injustice during his lifetime, but he has not been left in despair. He is hopeful, because he knows the power of the gospel. His parting words reflect the prayer of Jesus: for the Church to stand on biblical truth and live out biblical unity. One Blood is Perkins’s parting gospel call.
The Gospel Call
This gospel call spans 9 chapters. Dr. Perkins opens by laying down a biblical foundation, pointing the reader to Scripture to see what the church should look like (chapter 1) and the truth there is only one race and one blood (chapter 2). The problem is the church has failed to build on that biblical foundation. Therefore, a cry of lament for our broken past is necessary (chapter 3) as is mutual confessions to one another (chapter 4), followed by asking for and granting forgiveness (chapter 5). However, this gospel call not only speaks to forgiveness but also charges the reader to engage in this fight for biblical unity (chapter 6). This battle takes commitment to this work (chapter 7), commitment to prayer (chapter 8), and commitment to the greatest act, love (chapter 9). The stories of four multicultural churches are spread throughout the book to encourage the reader what can happen when the gospel call is heeded.
A Personal, Powerful, and Practical Book
This personal, powerful, and practical book is biblical, balanced, and bold in its approach. John models with his own personal lament (pages 77–78), shares his testimony from hate to love (pages 36–37), and devotes what he considers to be a very personal chapter on love (page 161). The power of John’s testimony does not come from John himself, though; it comes by the same one who will be able to empower the church to be one—the Holy Spirit (pages 67, 132). Human willpower is not sufficient for the task. The power of the Holy Spirit is the agent for this work of biblical reconciliation. As the Holy Spirit enables the church, she will be called to do her part. The practicality of the book contributes to this point. Perkins’s simple, yet strategic, suggestion on page 116 to get to know someone from a different cultural or ethnic group by asking them their name and sharing their story is a perfect example of this. The book closes with a call to action (page 176), and the appendix includes a study guide with discussion questions for the reader to wrestle through, answer, and discuss with others.
A Biblical, Balanced, and Bold Approach
So much discussion surrounding race relations in the current cultural climate focuses on caricatures and suffers from a lack of listening. That is what makes Dr. Perkins’s style winsome. When it comes to defining the understanding and implementation of biblical reconciliation, Perkins turns to the Bible. When it comes to claiming this issue as a gospel issue, Perkins turns to the Bible. He also directs the reader to the Bible to show the church is the only group of people capable and equipped for thi hard work, because they are the ones who have the Spirit indwelling them. The hope for biblical reconciliation will not be won on the streets by those saved by Christ (pages 173–174), with one church crossing “all ethnic, cultural, and class lines” (page 37). But we are not there yet. As a man who loves the church (page 68), John Perkins is both balanced and bold in sifting through the realities and difficulties of biblical reconciliation. His balanced approach calls for both blacks and whites to admit mutual confessions (pages 80, 83, 85) as he addresses both the offended and the offender (page 105). Likewise, he brings balance when he shines the light on testimonies and portraits of perseverance and commitment, highlighting stories of both blacks and whites. The boldness is further put on display when he exclaims confessions are not just to be shared on an individual basis but on a church level and even denominational level (page 91). In a culture filled with racial tension, Perkins boldly declares, “the black church can’t fix this. And the white church can’t fix this. It must be the reconciled Church, black and white Christians together imaging Christ to the world” (page 33).
A Gift of Grace to the Church
Other than a minor critique on the lack of a distinction between attitudinal and transactional forgiveness on page 102, One Blood is a robust call to biblical reconciliation. What Dr. John Perkins has given us with this book is a timely gift to the Church. As Dr. Perkins says of the announcement of Christ in Luke 2, “That was a message for the world, but it was a message entrusted to God’s people” (page 31). If you are a follower of Christ who longs to see the church be one as Jesus prays in John 17, serving as a witness to dying and divided world, then get a copy of One Blood and walk through it with another believer. If you are a church leader who wants to shepherd your people well when it comes to the problem of racism and solution of biblical reconciliation, then you need to purchase One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race by John Perkins. When you do, you will see these parting words on race are a gift of grace to the Church.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.
I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.