Called to Compassion

As the comforter comforts us, abides with us, accompanies us, comes beside us in our times of peril so we are called to accompany and comfort others. This is the result of what God has done for us.

II Corinthians 1:1-12

The Scholarly dissection of II Corinthians has resulted in it being seen as a compilation of more than one letter of Paul to the church at Corinth. The beginning section has been described as a ‘letter of reconciliation’ written after the successfully resuming good relations with the church following his having written what Paul referred to as his ‘painful’ letter. Paul tells that in Asia he was pushed to the limits, beyond his ability to endure and expecting to die yet, by the grace of God was delivered and he chalks some of it up to the prayers offered on his behalf by the faith community in Corinth.

The pressure he experienced on his missionary journeys in Asia caused him to despair. He all but gave up. Reflecting on his experience he praises God who cares about that which unsettles our lives. His pain was emotional pain and the comfort he received from God is of a different character than mere sympathy. It gave him help and hope.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.

Embedded several places in the Greek text is a compound word along with several of its linguistic cousins that is anglicized as Paraclete. Usually when we hear the word we hear it as an appellation or name for the Holy Spirit. A straight forward translation is “the one called to our side” – para meaning ‘along side’, like parallel and kale-o is ‘to be called’. It also shows up in the Gospel of John (14:16-17) where Jesus is quoted to say “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. Here the same Greek word that we found in II Corinthians as Paraclete is translated as Advocate. Other translations use words like helper, counselor or comforter. But the image caught up in the Greek is one who is the one who is called to come along beside you.

In the New Revised Standard Version we read this translation of II Corinthians 1:4-5. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

This is my attempt: “Blessed by God; the Father of the anointed master of us, Jesus; the Father of mercies and the God who has been called to stand beside us and comfort us. The one who is with us to comfort us in every difficulty enables us to be the one called to stand beside others in their difficulties through the same one who has been called to stand beside us”.

Para kaleo – the one called to come along side us is the comforter, the counselor, the advocate. And, at the request of Jesus, God has sent the Spirit to accompany us and be with us in the difficult times of our lives.

Easily to be missed in verse four of the New Revised Standard Version’s translation of the first chapter of II Corinthians is the tiny word ‘so’. Actually it’s part of the phrase “so that”. It is a connective conjunction. Of course the common day Greek used by the Apostle Paul didn’t have conjunctions, the meaning is caught up in the linguistics. It says that by the same God who provides one to be our comforter, who comes along side us we are called and empowered to be the Paraclete to others, called to stand beside them to provide consolation to others in their time of affliction by the one who has been called to come beside us.

As the comforter comforts us, abides with us, accompanies us, comes beside us in our times of peril so we are called to accompany and comfort others. This is the result of what God has done for us. For us then to share the pains of Christ means we stand with the other in the perils they face as we follow the path Christ lays out for us. Paul’s pain helped him to give comfort to others. As Paul received comfort and passed it on to others, it falls to us, as it did to the Corinthians to pass it on to other people.

So you ask “So what?”

The gender of three tenths of one percent of children is ambiguous at birth. It’s only as these people mature that who they are sexually becomes known. However, birth certificates embrace a simplistic binary mythology of gender – that is, through physical examination a child is determined to be either male or female and in many situations surgery is done on the infant to remove all doubt. As a child matures the truth of the matter becomes self evident. These children, certifiably of one gender and maturing emotionally and physically live with the confusing ambiguity of their own sexuality, are all too often the targets of bullying and abuse, and, statistics reveal are at a much higher risk of suicide. Recently politicians have added to the emotional abuse by politicizing what has been a matter of reality since time before time. Gender identity is how a person sees themselves. Gender certification is how they appeared at birth.

And, to add to it, the grave peril faced by these people has been exacerbated by the voices of the church community. Are we not called to come along side persons experiencing peril and offer safety, comfort and protection? I’m struggling with what has happened to the church in this country.

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