Piper takes chapter one and briefly tells his story of growing up in the segregated south. He talks, deliberately, about how segregation was bad for both races: obviously it demeaned African-Americans, but it also “had a deadening and defiling effect on the conscience of the white community.”
Piper talks about his own racist heart, despite his mother’s more Christian views. But what overrides chapter one is his dependence upon the gospel, not only for the cure for how he grew up and how the whole south grew up, but even for the present day. He confesses that he is not the multi-ethnic pastor that he could be, and for his short-fallings he depends completely on the grace of Christ.
Chapter two deals with the tension between our responsibility and the grace of God. He begins by talking about the debt he owes for his racist past, but he makes sure we understand that he is not talking about penance. In the same way that someone who breaks a window is responsible to pay for it—even if he has been forgiven—Piper feels the responsibility to show the world how the glory of God through the gospel of Christ is the only way to heal the damage between the races. “I must tell you the gospel or I will deny the grace reigning in me,” he says.
The second topic in this chapter is just an extension of the first: the church must represent Christ well in this area. The world looks at the church with its claims of a reconciling God and our credibility is at stake as we live out this truth or not—especially when it comes to how we do this with other races.
These first two chapters lay a foundation for the gospel to be the driving force behind the book as the answer for both individuals and the church to love those who are different than ourselves.