How shall we as American Christians think and act with regard to freedom of religion in a pluralistic context?
It was ten years ago when John Piper and the elders at Bethlehem first presented this question. The aim was to guide the church — both locally and on a wider scale — in how to live faithfully in an increasingly complex society. They drafted a single document of 20 guidelines that are perhaps more relevant now than ever.
All 20 guidelines are helpful, but in light of recent days #9 adds an extra jolt:
9. We should make clear that we are Christians first and Americans second. We are aliens and exiles in the world and our deepest and truest citizenship is in heaven. Our decisive Lord and Leader is Jesus Christ, not the president of the United States. This first and deepest allegiance unites us with Christians of all nationalities more firmly than our secular citizenship unites us with other Americans. In regard to many American values and behaviors we are dissenting citizens. American culture is not Christianity. We believe it is not unpatriotic to criticize unjust and ungodly aspects of our own culture. (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11; Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29; 1 Timothy 6:14-15; Revelation 17:14; Ephesians 5:11)
As rocky as the road may be, amid all the complexities, our goal remains clear: bear witness to the supremacy of Christ.