And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (John 14:16ESV)
John Donne, a 17th-century cleric, is credited with the phrase “No man is an island.”
It’s true. Despite those who would wish to secede from society and go live on a mountaintop or a desert island somewhere, we all need each other—not just for our physical well-being, but for our emotional and spiritual health as well.
I’m sure many of you have heard of a condition called, “Failure to Thrive.” Many years ago, it was found that babies who were not held and touched were less healthy and grew more slowly than babies that were picked up and cuddled and spoken to lovingly.
Our spiritual life is no different. We cannot go it alone. Yes, other believers are essential in our spiritual life, but because we battle against rulers and authorities and spiritual forces, we also need help from God. Only then can our souls thrive.
The verse above is the ESV version, but if you compare other versions, there is a wide variety of words used to translate “another Helper” including Comforter, Advocate, and Counselor. The Douay-Rheims version uses the word “Paraclete.”
“Paraclete” is a Greek word which is formed from “para” (meaning to be close beside) and “kaleo” (meaning to be called.) So, the literal meaning is for someone who was called to be close by your side. It was used to refer to a legal advocate, someone giving evidence that stands up in court, and also a comforter, a helper, a counselor, and an intercessor.
But, there’s another use of the word.
In ancient Greece, each soldier was paired with a paraclete. The two were inseparable in battle. They fought back-to-back, each watching out for the other so that no enemy could sneak up on the pair. Neither would ever be given a different mission than the other. They were a team that could not be split apart. In battle, neither one would ever leave or abandon the other, even if it meant certain death.
I couldn’t find anything in my studies to confirm it, but I would not be at all surprised if that’s where the phrase, “I got your back” came from.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of the Holy Spirit swinging the sword of truth back-to-back with me as my own paraclete in the daily spiritual battle gives me great encouragement and peace.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)