Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
There is surely nothing more basic God has given to us than our very selves, our existence. It includes everything about us, both our physical selves (which when you think about it, really includes all we are) and our inward selves, that which in a sense transcends the physical. Yet beyond the Greek duality, the Hebrew thought from Scripture is that our true selves includes our bodies, the physical, really every part of us. The NIV words “life” and “soul” are translations of the same Greek word, ψυχή, reflecting the different meanings possible within that one word.
Jesus is telling us something paradoxical here. If we are willing to give up our lives for him, then we’ll keep our lives. But if we’re trying to save our lives, then we’ll lose them (a helpful NET footnote). Because of this most basic gift from God, we can enjoy the creation and new creation with the Triune God at the center, loving God and loving our neighbor. We are given a special gift, ourselves. We’re paradoxically not to save that gift for ourselves, but spend it for others. We can do that in the way God intends only in the same way Jesus did it. With the help of the Spirit of God, we live that way. When we do that we find what not only will last beyond this life, but will fit well in the present, even if we’re misfits to many in doing so. In and through Jesus.