When movements gain age, they can tend to lose perspective on what defines them or the stories that have made them. Christians can experience the same exact thing. Early Church history can prove this. Not even 500 years after the death of Jesus, people were already killing each other for mere heresy. Christians, named after the god who defined things with peace, love, and mercy, were out finding enemies and killing them. And it was not even outside of the faith, but with their own line of brothers of the faith. Movements need continuous reminders of what started them. Countries need constant reminders of their founding fathers and documents to define them and Christians need the same concerning God and the Bible. Without it, we tend to find other things to define us, like power, fame, money, etc. In the end, if we stray from our founding experience in Church history and even our own personal experiences, we grab for the same things that we were saved from.
After Hezekiah passed away, his son, Manasseh, became King. After all of the experiences of Hezekiah, which Manasseh had to have experienced on some level. Despite the experiences of Israel, which included rescue from certain defeat by the Assyrians, Israel followed Manasseh into the pagan worship that Hezekiah did away with. This is always the story that repeats itself. The pattern is that they experience a God of amazing love and profound saving experiences and they turn to other thing in hopes that they will bring them a life of peace and meaning. By this time, God has done many things to show that He is better than the other gods. He has shown that he is the one who is always the source of everything good, beautiful, and creative. The common assumption that has not changed to this day is that if it is safe and is adopted by everyone else, then it must be the thing to go for. No risk and conformity are in high demand because nothing is lost. What that leads to is people not wanting to follow a God who calls them to risk. Not even the religion of Christianity is completely on board sometimes and will find ways to twist the gospel and theology to look less risky and conforms to a pattern that popular culture will approve of at least a majority of the time. Even if we disagree with others, the way we do it fits with the status quo. We say that it’s us versus them and that we could never show love to the other people. In the end we end up trying to do things just as we have always done them instead retaking our faith and learning that new way to be human.
The pattern does not stop with Manasseh, it continues on to the next king, Amon. Eventually, these kings die and another king named Josiah takes over, which leads to a better situation, but for the time being we must focus on how devastating losing our core narrative is. We cannot deny that Jesus changed everything. Even many non-Christians admit that His existence shifted history. Even His followers, who kept connected to the narrative that Jesus created shook the Roman Empire and the rest of the known world. Think about the story of Acts and how many people were probably healed. Think of the national and ethnic lines crossed to bring different people into what was an almost impossible community. Think of the many people who society forgot and were remembered by these heroes of faith, all because people took the story of Jesus and lived it in their world.
2000 years later and we have seen many ups and downs and have seen ourselves stray from the story and then come back to it. The question is where is your community of faith now? Is it heading in the direction of the story of Jesus or has it abandoned that story to find a more comfortable story? We are called as a people to lead the world and each other towards the story that God has made for us. This story is about creating a beautiful reality. The risk is still there as it has been for thousands of years. The fallen kingdom is filled with violence, greed, and misery. We combat that with the story of Jesus. We give our lives for others and live in a community fighting to bring good to the world. God has never stopped calling us to that. Our choice is simpler that most would have you think, choose to live the story we need to be saved from or, like Hezekiah, we can decide to shake the world and find our God given story again.