….the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any troubles with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Whether it was Lockerbie in Scotland, 9/11 in America, or – as in recent days - Paris in November 2015, these are some of the realities of life in a fallen world. In his passage of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul puts evil, suffering – and the hand of comfort - into a Christian context. The comfort that derives from God Himself is described by a Greek word, PARAKALEO, which means ‘I call for aid alongside…. I summon assistance.’
Indeed the name, given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit of God, was that of
PARAKLETOS, literally, ‘The Comforter.’ In these words, then, the Bible brings to us the ideas of coming alongside, of counsel, of fortitude and consolation in the middle of adversity and evil.
In verses 5 and 7 of this Bible chapter, the words ‘partaking’ or ‘sharing’ feature. Such partnership they knew all about when slaves were sent to the galleys, or when gladiators faced lions.
In one way or another – faced by an evil ideology that comes out of the Pit - we are practising this partnership today, right across the world. We are part of:
The Partnership of Pain – our common Frailty
Paul emphasizes that ‘If WE are comforted, it is for YOUR comfort and salvation’ (v.6). In a strange way, the knowledge that many others know what adversity means - and are standing by in support - creates an unseen bond of help and courage.
The Partnership of Prayer - our common Activity
This is bigger still. When undisguised evil strikes a city, we fly to prayer - whatever our background. It is part of being human; the underlying awareness that there is a power; more - a Person - who is only a hairsbreadth away from the heartbeat of our anxieties.
The Partnership of Posterity – our common Unity
We are called to be Builders of a world where freedom, mutual understanding and support can walk hand in hand. The purveyors of destruction have to be out-argued and out-faced …. at every level.