In 1620, around 100 dissident Christians made an incredibly difficult journey across the Atlantic from England to America. Known as Separatists because they believed it was better to separate from the established Church of England than to follow its decrees, these Christians made a decision to leave their home country and find a place where they could worship God, not according to the dictates of a king or queen, but according to their own understanding of the Bible and God’s will for them. First escaping from England to the Netherlands, the Separatists found more religious freedom, but many other difficulties. Eventually, part of the group decided to take the bold step of sailing to the New World and starting their own colony.
They were English subjects still. They came to America with a land patent from the king and with financial backing from English merchants. They did not deny the authority of the king or of Parliament over the civil aspects of their lives. But on the question of their duty to God, they could not accept the authority of their government over the authority of God’s Word. Since the King of England did not agree with them on this point, they chose to separate themselves not only from the Church of England but from their native country as well. These men and women, known to history as the Pilgrims, risked everything and suffered much to find a place where they could plant their own church and live their lives according to the laws of God.
William Bradford called his brave group of Separatists “pilgrims” after those dauntless Christians who, for centuries past, had left their homes and traveled to distant lands to visit some holy shrine, or the site of a miraculous happening, or a place where the bones or belongings of saints could be found--a place where they could feel closer to God. The Pilgrims who set sail on the Mayflower also wanted to feel closer to God. They were able to leave behind their houses and land in England because they knew that country was only a temporary home. And they were able to endure the hardships and deprivations of the New World because they knew it, as well, was not their final destination. Instead, they “lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.”
As Christians, we should live in this world--wherever we live in this world--like the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation. We should recognize that our place of residence here is temporary. Our nationality is temporary. Our true citizenship is not in any nation on the earth, but in the Kingdom of God, both now and for eternity. We should not hold too tightly or be too concerned for anything on this earth. For our treasure and our home is in heaven.
What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.