“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Mt. 10:28)
Matthew is describing how Jesus sent out the twelve disciples. Jesus is offering them guidance in the event they encounter persecution. He is clearly making a distinction between body and soul, and implying that the soul can live on even if the body is killed.
Being raised in a Christian family, I was aware of the idea of a body and a soul and the two being distinct since I was a child. It wasn’t until many years later when a secretary with whom I worked died of colon cancer that I began to really understand the distinction.
Her name was Rita. She was not only a highly competent secretary, but a lovely, gracious person. She was always kind and fair with the other secretaries she supervised. She had a joyful and peaceful spirit. Everyone loved her. I watched her decline through two surgeries and multiple regimens of chemo therapy. On my last visit with her before she died, I was shocked by her physical condition – how she went from a vibrant women in her mid-40’s, so full of life, to a near skeleton of a person ravaged by cancer and chemo therapy.
That evening I was thinking about her condition, and I believe God gave me a special understanding of the nature of our being and the distinction between body and soul. Most of the characteristics that determine who a person is are not related to their physical nature. Whether a person is kind, loving, truthful, and gracious comes not from a person’s physical presence, but from their inner being, their soul, and what we often describe as their heart.
Cancer can kill our physical nature, but it can’t kill the inner person or the soul that lives on. The soul is eternal just as the Bible says. The next day I wrote Rita a letter sharing these same thoughts, which her family read to her. I was told that a knowing smile came across her face. She died the next day.
I believe that I experienced a moment of God’s special grace after my last visit with Rita. He shared a bit of his truth about life for both my benefit and Rita’s. It was a moment I will always remember, and one that has re-enforced my Christian faith and changed my outlook on life.
What makes you primarily who you are?