I’m neither Greek nor a scholar, but my favourite word is thelo.
It’s translated “will” most often in the english New Testament, but here’s another case where our language just don’t cut it. Here’s how my Key Word Study Bible unpacks the word:
“To will, wish, desire, implying active volition and purpose…Thelo indicates not only willing something, but also pressing on to action…Thelo in the NT denotes elective inclination, love…the act of the will, pleasure, desire…it may stand side-by-side with poieo…to do, to make…”
As you can see, there ain’t no English word that can do all of that.
Thelo—this one word—means to desire, decide, and do.
Kinda changes the way we read the Lord’s prayer, then: “May your kingdom come, your thelo be done.” It could actually read, “May your deepest heavenly desire resonate with the hearts of people everywhere. May this shared desire crest in a wave of godly choices. And may we all press on to make your heavenly dreams come true wherever we touch the world.”
Or Jesus’ words when he says, “My food is to do the thelo of him who sent me and to finish his work.” This really means, “I draw my sustenance and energy from intimate resonance with my Father’s desires and letting those desires move me toward decisions that help those desires become a reality.”
Can you see why I love this word?
Thelo. The will of God isn’t just about doing the right thing(s). First of all, it’s about wanting what God wants. Then letting that desire forge our priorities, our schedule, our decisions. But it will not rest until it makes the dream come true. Seen in this light, doing God’s will has more in common with the Dream Foundation than it does with keeping a religious checklist.
Imagine a young boy sitting at a table. He’s pale and hairless, a badge of honour awarded for the chemo he’s conquered on this leg of his journey. Even so, he’s sitting bright eyed, flanked by his parents. The three of them face a nice man with a one-liner and a question.
“Joey, I represent an organization called the Dream Foundation. Quite simply, we exist to make dreams come true.”
“Really?” Joey’s eyes bug out of his head.
“Well, not for everyone. For special kids like you. For kids who don’t have much time to live.”
“For kids like me?”
“Yes. And today, it’s all about you in particular. So tell me, what do you want?”
Joey falters. He flicks glances toward his mother, then his father. They smile, encouraging. “Well,” he says, a playful smile creeping across his cheeks, “I sure would like to swim with a dolphin in Hawaii.”
The man leans in closer, smiling too. “Really? With a dolphin?”
“That’s what you want? Are you sure?”
“Then, Joey, that’s what we want, too. So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to write all this down, we’re going to get you and your mom and dad some plane tickets to Hawaii, we’re going to book a hotel, and some snorkelling lessons, and we’re going to make this dream come true. With the dolphins.”
And the man does just that. A week later, he hand delivers the package. A month later, Joey is swimming with dolphins.
Thelo begins the story, props up the middle, and isn’t finished until the climax.
Desire. Decision. Do. Thelo.
Did I mention I love this word? Thelo is the shape our love for God takes. It’s the beating heart of the Christian life. So what about you? I