A stroll through the deep, dark woods of the Internet would have Jesus be all of these things and more, or even the posters and campaigns churches engage in would imply the same.
Questioning a campaign to end abortions/oppose same-sex marriage/advance Fairtrade/march on Downing Street over foreign debt is QUITE the faux pas: Anyone with half a brain cell must be able to see that this publicity stunt/short term project/investment in a development initiative is exactly what Jesus meant for his people to do.
Any opposing voice is simply ignorant. Or worse, bigoted.
A young woman is starving and alone beneath a bridge–who are you to refuse her food? Clothes? Didn’t Jesus say that judgement awaited those who withheld from such? (Matthew 23)
Is there not a greater ill in a group of people who are prevented from living as they would please? Who are we to stand in the way?
But who is to say that investing in this school and clinic project in Rwanda is the best thing? How are we to know if this truly grants the people access to the humanity robbed of them in their long struggle?
And what does it mean for a Christian to interact with these issues, always clambering for a few seconds of air time on the radio and TV, desperate for inches in the daily rag?
How does the Christian listen to the painful voices of neighbours, colleagues, fellow churchgoers?
Pain, whether from hunger pangs; denied opportunity or the neglect of the intrinsic humanity of another person, demands a response.
But must a homeless man must be fed simply on the grounds that he hungers?
The Christian, by their confession of faith, participates in a reality unseen by the world. It smells the sweet fragrance far off, sure but the Christian lives and moves within this world as a true resident of the world to come. That world is the Kingdom of God where Jesus himself is king.
And rightly the Christian ought to fear before this coming King, doing his will though he is far off.
Acting justly because each thought and deed will be brought into judgement.
Living mercifully since this King has shown such mercy.
Praying humbly because all is owed to this great and wise King.
This King is kind. He will comfort the hurt and provide for the desperate, wiping away their tears. He is compassionate, dwelling with the sinner as well as righteous since he is the Beloved of both.
Yet this King is being dethroned:
Many voices clamber for attention, each one speaking out a different heaven, preaching the coming of another kingdom and promising the eternal rest which will come when their kingdom is established. Each fair-garbed prophet comes in peace with a shining light of good intention.
But it’s not Jesus. It’s not Christ the King.
And if anyone knows pain, suffering a rejection it’s him. The voices today, even the most cracked, the most repressed and most pleading cannot compare to Christ’s own cry. So if he is the Lord of the Afflicted, crowned with thorns and honoured with beatings, surely he knows the way to healing?
So what might this Suffer say to the starving man? I suspect the words would be few but maybe he might say one thing. He might say that this man is just as invited to feast as all of Jesus’ other guests. He is invited to sit with all of Jesus’ friends and be fed and satisfied.
Does this change the fact that his hungry stomach demands food? No.
But it does change how he is included.
Jesus of Nazareth is not some right’s campaigner, asking Caesar to be a little bit more fair; husbands to give their wives a bit more freedom; employers to pay their staff a bit more.
No, he is a King marching with all his angels and the whole host of saints through the ages to take up his Eternal Throne in this world.
And in this Kingdom, categories like left and right, conservative and progressive will dissolve along with the great walls of division constructed in sin and made with hate. And only in this Kingdom will true freedom reign.
Let his Church be an outpost of this reconciliation, not just another voice clambering for air time.