The word “parakeleo” is found 109 times throughout the New Testament. It is formed by two other words, “para” which means (from, at, beside, near), and “kaleo” which means (to call, invite, call by name).
It’s range of similar meanings can go from “to call upon/beseech” to “to exhort”, “to encourage”, “to offer consolation”. We find the most concentrated use of the word, in various forms…in 2 Corinthians chapter 1.
Here, Paul begins a letter from a place of sorrow. In the midst of suffering, Paul writes a letter and focuses on this theme. He uses the word 10 times in under 5 verses (1 Cor. 1:3-7). In the same section of verses, Paul uses the word for “affliction” or “suffering” 7 times in those same verses, and a word such as “we, our, us” 14 times.
This could all be seen as a bit of using what I see to say what I want to say….but I believe there is a tremendous message in these verses that we are witnesses to in the reality around us today. The people of Haiti are suffering, and have been impacted in some very large ways because of the earthquake activity this past week. The call to prayer/action/financial support is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
But even so, the response stands as a moment with Kingdom qualities. A time where suffering and consolation find themselves in close relationship, and the opportunity for both to occur in the context of human relationships, community, and the “least of these” is huge.
To quote NT Wright on Paul’s choice of word here: “that one person is being with another, speaking words which change their mood and situation, giving them courage, new hope, new direction, new insights which will alter the way they face the next moment, the next day, the rest of their life….when you “console” someone you simply bring them back from utter despair to ordinary unhappiness. The word Paul uses here, over and over again, does more than that. It meets people where they are, and brings them right on to the point where they are strong enough to see new hope, new possibilities, new ways forward.”
May we all continue to pray, whatever our connection to what has happened. May we respond as those called to “parakaleo” the suffering whenever an opportunity like this arises.