It is difficult for us to live a convincing life as people of the New Covenant when we have a relationship with the promise of Heaven more like Hezekiah's than Paul's. But what is perhaps even more detrimental to our Christian faith, and to our proclamation of our Lord, is the second part of Hezekiah's story, which has become far too much a part of our own.
As Hezekiah nears the end of his life for a second time, he asks the Lord what is going to happen. Actually, he specifies what he'd like to have happen and sort of gives God his take on things, and God replies that things are not going to go that well. The people will be conquered, captured, and exiled, and there will be war, disaster, and terror, all because the people have not been faithful to the Lord. Hezekiah's response?
That's cool. As long as things are okay for the rest of my time here. As long as things are good until I die. Then, whatever, God.
We might today call this some version of the "prosperity gospel," although it's far less cute than this criticism would tend to make it. What we have done is taken a God who has always been about His people and essentially demanded and declared that He's all about us as individuals. He's all about me. He's all about you. And most of us, to be honest, don't really care what God does, what He thinks, what He plans, what He promises except as it relates to us.
We don't really care about our neighbor. Just as Hezekiah, the king of God's people, no longer cares about God's people.
He's only out for himself.
There are only about a thousand problems with this theology, not all of which that we have time to get into. For starters, it sets up this idea where there can be no accountability. Your relationship with God is your relationship with God, and my relationship with Him is mine, and how dare anyone claim to know anything about someone else's relationship with God. There's no ground to hold anyone to anything called "truth" any more.
Not only this, but we've set ourselves into a contradictory idea that almost begs our reality to lie to us, to some degree. We hear the word of the Lord declaring war and disaster and terror, and we know that this is going to be the case, but we've begged for mercy and received it; our lives are actually okay. So we too easily forget about war and disaster and terror. We too easily put them into categories of things that are real, but not real to us. And we let something as amazing as grace lie to us, in a sense, until we're lulled into a sense of false security - our happy little bubble is the real God; all that destruction and terror stuff is just some story meant to scare us. Some myth.
When we start to think this way, we start to question disaster and terror at all, as though these are not ultimate realities in the same way that the temporary respite is. People who are troubled, people whose hearts ache, people who struggle in this world...they just haven't come to the place of peace that we have. They just don't know God the way that we do. God, see...He doesn't do all this destruction stuff. He doesn't Lord over a world where things are hard. He's all peace and flowers and rainbows. So we start to look down on one another for struggling. We start to look down on one another for hurting. If only these people knew God....
They did know Him; we led them astray.
And this is how we start to eat away at our community as the people of God. This is how we start to crumble as a people and start to break off into our own persons. This is how we stop caring about others. Because things are going well for us. Because we have peace. Because we have bought into the grace more than the truth. Because things are okay for us....and we no longer care what else God decides to do in the world. We no longer care what truth He speaks into anyone else's life, or even into our communal life. Whatever God is doing, that's cool, as long as things continue to go well for us.
That's no way to be a people of God. That's not even a good way to be a person of God. In a sense, it's smoke and mirrors - a small reflection of what's real, but by no means the entire picture. And all of this out of a people who know all too well that there are two things we must do - love God and love each other.
We can't love each other if we don't care what happens. We can't love each other if our only love of God is of what He does for us. We can't love each other if we hear the truth of God's Word and say, That's cool. As long as things are good for me.
That's not cool.