A visually impaired, older lady named Elsie has a pet parrot named Sam. Sam goes with her everywhere she goes. She keeps his wings clipped, and he is so well-trained that she never has to worry about him flying away. Sam is one of the smartest birds she has ever known. He brings her small items in his beak when she asks for them. He sits on her shoulder and whispers in her ear whether something is to the right or the left. Or when she gets sad or lonely, he climbs up on her chest and comforts her by snuggling under her chin and saying, “It’s okay, Elsie. I’m here. Calm down. You’re all right, Elsie.” Once, Sam even rescued her. She had fallen and lay in the floor for hours, but when a neighbor came to their own apartment door across the corridor, Sam flew up and down against the window in his own door, flapping his wings and bumping against the door to get the neighbor’s attention. This helped the neighbor to notice what was wrong and get help. When she got Sam, Elsie didn’t originally train him as a service animal—he kind of did that himself. But because of parrots’ long lifespans, Elsie knows that Sam will be with her, helping her for the rest of her life. Elsie got Sam registered as an official service animal, which guarantees him access to public transportation and public buildings, the same as if he were a service dog. People may look askance when the lady with the parrot on her shoulder gets on the bus, but she smiles and says, “I never see those looks.”[i]
In the fourteenth and sixteenth chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus comforts His disciples by promising that when He leaves them, God will send the Holy Spirit to continue His work among them. In 14:16-18, He says,
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.
When Jesus says God will send the Advocate, He says “another,” a Greek word which means “another of the same kind.” In fact, the Holy Spirit will be so much like Jesus that He says, “I will come to you.” Yes—God will still be with them, even when He leaves. Without getting into the mystery of the Trinity, I want to simply rejoice that God does not leave us as orphans, but promises to help us. In verses 26-27, Jesus says, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Then, in 16:5-15, He picks up the subject again:
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’
The word that the NLT translates as Advocate is Paraclete. This word is also translated as Comforter, Helper, and Counselor. It comes from two Greek words meaning “close beside” and to “make a call.” A Paraclete is “properly, a legal advocate who makes the right judgment-call because close enough to the situation.” A Paraclete “is the regular term in NT times of an attorney (lawyer) – i.e. someone giving evidence that stands up in court.”[ii]
While all this is true, please permit a little license to compare the role of the Paraclete to the job of a helper animal. Like the parrot Sam with clipped wings, the Holy Spirit’s dove won’t fly away from you. This Paraclete (not Parakeet) will remain with you, whispering words of comfort and warning to your soul. Because the Spirit indwells you rather than simply sitting on your shoulder, this Helper will never leave you. Like a helper animal gives comfort, assurance, and assistance to a human, the Spirit guides, comforts, and helps believers. But unlike a helper animal that is subject to the control of the person, instead, the Christ-follower ought to submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit.
If we believers are to love as God loves, then we must adopt the role of Paraclete for other people. We must become their comforters, helpers, counselors, and advocates. God calls us to whisper words of reassurance and warning, peace and blessing, to lead people in the truth that we know. Since this is what the Holy Spirit does for you, this becomes your mission: to be the Paraclete and friend to those in need.
[i] This fictional story is based on real-life helper animals (including a helper parrot), in an article entitled Creature Comforts, by Rebecca Skloot. New York Times Magazine, Dec. 31, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/magazine/04Creatures-t.html?mcubz=0. July 24, 2017.
See also an article entitled Assistance Monkeys, Ducks, Parrots, Pigs and Ducks … Should the law protect them? By the same author. Culture Dish. Dec. 31, 2008. http://scienceblogs.com/culturedish/2008/12/31/assistance-monkeys-ducks-parro/. July 24, 2017.