May 30, 2014

Ho Pater Ton Oiktirmos: "the Father of Mercies"

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort… .
—2 Corinthians 1:3


In this densely packed prayer, Paul praises God as the God and Father of Jesus Christ and as Ho Pater ton Oiktirmos, “the Father of mercies.” The Greek word oiktirmos, expressing “compassion, pity, mercy,” literally means “to have a stomach ache for the object of one’s compassion.”

Surprisingly, even though Paul and his coworkers suffered in their work to spread the good news of Jesus, Paul didn’t complain or ask God to remove their suffering. Instead, he acknowledged God’s compassion in the midst of their suffering. Actually, Paul didn’t see suffering as apart from God’s will, but somehow as a part of God’s will for himself and his fellow laborers. Most remarkably, Paul described God as Ho Pater ton Oiktirmos, “the Father of mercies,” who comforts us in our afflictions.

What kind of Father is this who allows his children to suffer? We suffer because of sin and its effects in this world. But Paul reminds us that in our suffering Ho Pater ton Oiktirmos comforts us through Jesus Christ, who, after all, suffered and died for us, paying the debt of our sin.

Are you suffering? Take comfort and courage that “the Father of Mercies” cares for you. And because he cares for you, you can care for others.

Father of Mercies, help us to see your goodness in joy and sorrow, well-being and suffering, and to know your comfort and share it with others. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Kurt Selles

Kurt Selles is the director of ReFrame Ministries and serves as the Executive Editor of Today. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to ReFrame, he served 19 years in Taiwan and China with CRC World Missions. Kurt later taught missions at Beeson Divinity School, where he also acted as the director of the school’s Global Center. Kurt and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Rapids and have three adult children.

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