Friday, November 2, 2007

The Bible tells me so

Back on the third day of this blog, in the third post [And they said it wouldn't last, 9/30/2007], I wrote that I would try not to make the blog all about me, me, me because He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease. I was quoting a verse from the gospel of St. John (chapter 3, verse 30) that I thoroughly believe. And then, except for just one other post where I mentioned 8x10 glossies, I began to tell you all about me, me, me and pretty much forgot about Him. So today I want to tell you something I discovered this week in the Bible.

In that third post, I used the word "Paraclete" in reference to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. Paraclete is probably not a word you hear except in sermons. Have you ever heard it in McDonald's or Macy's or while watching Dancing With The Stars or Boston Legal? Neither have I. Paraclete is from a Greek word, παράκλητος, parakletos. Every single time I've ever heard it the speaker was referring to one of four verses in the New Testament -- John 14:16, John 14:26, John 15:26, or John 16:7 -- where the word is translated "Comforter" and refers to the Holy Spirit. Some translations say "Helper" and someone explained once that the word means "One called alongside to help." So far, so good.

Recently I was reading a blog where some Christians in academia, intellectuals for the most part, were having a conversation about the lack of equity in the world, the unfairness of wealth distribution, the injustice of it all, and what the Christian community ought to be doing to remedy that situation. They sounded like Democrats to me. My thoughts took a more personal turn; I was thinking that my only hope for justice and fairness in this world or the next is not to reform society but to throw myself on the mercy of the court, on the grace and mercy of Almighty God. (By the way, the best definitions of grace and mercy I ever heard came from an 82-year-old gentleman who said that grace is getting something you don't deserve, and mercy is not getting something you do deserve.) When I thought about trials and judges and lawyers and fairness and justice some more, something John wrote in his first epistle (I John 2:1) came to mind: "My little children, I write these things unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." I decided to look that verse up in the Blue Letter Bible online to learn more about what an advocate is.

I was completely surprised. No, I was dumbfounded. It was like finding a gold nugget or a sparkling diamond. The word translated "advocate" in I John 2:1 is the very same word translated "Comforter" in John 14, 15, and 16 -- παράκλητος, parakletos, paraclete! I've always heard the I John passage explained as having a legal flavor, that having an advocate with the Father was like having a lawyer represent you before a judge. No one in all these years has ever suggested to me that an advocate might also be a comforter or that a comforter might also be an advocate. But there it was, plain as the nose on my face, in the original Greek.

So not only do we have One called alongside to help us here on earth (the Holy Spirit), but we also have One called alongside to help us in the heavenlies (the crucified, risen Christ). Both of them are paracletes! A double whammy! And when Jesus said he would send us "another" Comforter, he used a word that means another of the same kind, One just like Himself. Of course! Wouldn't He, being a paraclete, know just the sort of paraclete humanity would need?

This excites me. It makes me want to shout about the goodness of God. I'm so glad his mercy endures forever. I can understand that, even in English.

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