You are probably the most familiar with the translation in Mark saying, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” It has been made famous in a number of songs. It has been used in many sermons. What if, however, we lost the focus?
As you read Matthew’s and Luke’s understanding of the same scene, you’ll see self or life (depending on translation). These along with soul are all correct.
Yet, the problem is that when we focus on soul, we jump to salvation and Jesus as Lord and Savior. That isn’t the point. The context of picking up one’s cross daily to deny self. In Mark’s larger context, it even comes with the denial of Jesus.
The danger in focusing on salvation is that it misses the whole point of living. Salvation, ultimately, is what happens at the end (yes, this is a simplification). The passages are talking about life.
A person may perceive that they have not lost their “soul”, and yet do horrible things. One could say that then they don’t “know” Jesus. That could be true. However, the same people who often focus on the “soul” have a “turn or burn” theology that allows a grace-less life to be judged as “saved”.
The intent is to have a Jesus-filled life. The self in question that needs to be laid aside is the worldly self. The self that is lost and tossed is the fulfilled life of somewhat who has given themselves to Jesus.
Sometimes, it seems, it would be easier to be a monk or a nun, separated from the world. When we hear from many of these cloistered people, it seems that many struggle just as we do it setting down the worldly self.
The full life with Jesus is the life of today, tomorrow, and forever. It is always “and”; it is never “or”.
Jesus, may the life we seek be the one you want for us. Amen.