And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
-Jesus (Matthew 16:26 NLT)
TobyMac is a Christian musician whose hip-hop/hybrid music was my jam about 15 years ago. One of his compilations with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa was titled, Lose My Soul.
Go ahead. Get your groove on for 4 minutes.
The main line of the chorus, echoing the words of Jesus in Matthew and Mark is this:
I don’t wanna gain the whole world, and lose my soul.
I’ve been thinking about where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and what the coming months may hold as things keep changing. Certain regulations will remain for a long time, and certain regulations will loosen. And people will have to continue to navigate all the challenging opinions and situations out there. It will feel excruciating at times, and people will continue to have vastly different perspectives. And how we handle that can do a number to our souls.
If TobyMac did a reboot these days, I wonder if he might echo the words of Jesus by adapting the chorus to: I don’t want to live through Covid, yet lose my soul.
Because a soul is a terrible thing to lose. Our sense of who we are and what we are about is a horrible thing be in danger of forfeiting.
When Jesus talks about losing our soul, he’s talking about anything that takes the primary focus in our hearts and minds… anything that doesn’t resemble the self-giving, cross-bearing love of Jesus. He speaks this at the end of a statement about laying down our lives so that we can join Jesus in taking up a better one with him.
And the whole statement begins with this:
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways….
Oh boy. That’s hard. I love my selfish ways. And you want to know what I really love these days? Knowing I’m right.
A soul is a terrible thing to lose for the sake of needing to be right.
We’re immersed in an armchair expert culture. We can do a quick google search (graciously tailored by google to match our natural bias that it has learned) and then become quite confident that we are right about any given subject or situation in a matter of minutes. That’s not to say that there isn’t objective truth out there. But what I’m wondering about today is the way we hold those opinions about who is right and who isn't.
This week we of LifePath Church are leaning into the profound Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
It’s a loaded poetic prayer that speaks of being an instrument of God’s peace. That phrase alone is incredible.
Near the end we pray that God would help us "not so much seek to be understood as to understand." What a desire. Seems like Francis understood that if our highest priority is to convince others why we’re right, we might miss the opportunity to love them by listening well.
That sounds like laying down your life to me. That sounds like “turning from my selfish ways.”
I want to love so boldly that I don’t need to win arguments (I think Paul would even say it's better that way because then we get to practice the character of Christ). I want to care so deeply that I understand all my different friends and their different reasons for pain, even in the moments when I believe their thinking might be flawed.
It comes down to this simple theme of Jesus:
In God’s kingdom, being right is not as important as being loving.
I don’t want a virus or people’s response to it to harden my heart during this time. I don’t want a government to either. I want everything to soften my heart. To make me more able to see people’s stories and their vulnerabilities and say, “what a load you have to bear. I will bear it with you.”
Nothing has changed about how we get there. We submit to Jesus again and again and let ourselves be changed by him. Simple to say, hard to do. Because surrender sometimes feels like death.
But, as St. Francis wrote 800 years ago as he thought about the Jesus way, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Jesus, protect my soul and make me an instrument of your peace.