Opportunity to bring encouragement
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience as you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you also share in our comfort.
As you may know, the 27 books of the New Testament scriptures were originally written in the 1st century’s language of the street, “koine” or “common” Greek. Today’s scholars who produce English translations of these ancient texts must choose modern vocabulary which best conveys the meaning the original author intended. In this particular set of verses, a key word has been repeatedly translated “comfort” (i.e., in the ESV).
Quite honestly, “comfort” means different things to moderns. To many it means living in luxurious digs. “I like my home to be comfortable.” It can mean “well-supplied” or “at ease, untroubled.” Many worship comfort, as if a divine right. To be uncomfortable is unacceptable.
However, this is not the meaning Paul intended with the word he chose. Better would have been the phrase “emergency encouragement.” Para-kaleo meant “someone who comes when summoned to help and refresh.” What an Emergency Medical Team (EMT) unit does. What a mother does when she hears her child cry out. What fire personnel do when an alarm is pulled. What the Coast Guard does when receiving an S.O.S.
Paul insists that a key reason for suffering is to be equipped when summoned to the need of others. A cache of life-saving encouragement can flow between those in the body of Christ who have shared in a host of Christ’s sufferings. Tough stuff prepares us as spiritual EMTs, and it is no shame to cry out for help. It’s how we prevail in the tough stuff together.