When was the last time you shared your soul with another person? Perhaps you would consider the question and say that you share your soul with your spouse. Perhaps you don’t. Maybe you have a good friend–a best friend–whom you pour out your heart and soul to, but maybe you don’t. If you are familiar with the life of David before he became king, you may remember he shared a friendship with King Saul’s son Jonathan. It is said of Jonathan, “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul,” (1 Samuel 18:3, ESV). And of David it is said, “And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul,” (1 Samuel 20:17, ESV). Many people have tried to sexualize this love between David and Jonathan, but there was not such a thing expressed in the text or in the intent. What is expressed is a deep friendship between the two men. In fact, one could almost say that this was an example of the second great command to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
In today’s America, we tend to shy away from this type of deep friendship, whether it is two men or two women. The sharing of souls is confined to the place of marriage, and if it were to be confined, marriage would be the place to do it. But Scripture does not bear the confinement of soul-sharing only to marriage. The sharing of souls is to be a major function of church members toward one another. In Acts 4:32, one will read, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common,” (ESV). Some translations will translate “soul” as “mind.” The Greek word is “psyche” which of course is where the words psychology or psychiatry come from. In Greek, the word tends to mean the inner being, the soul, the life within the body. As G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The word soul here is the word that indicates life; it is not the high word which means spirit, but the word which refers to life as a force, as a dynamic,” (The Acts of the Apostles, Fleming H. Revell, Co., 1924; p. 141). This was why, if one was to read on, the people gave up their belongings and sold what they had. People mistaken this for communism, but it wasn’t meant to be the first experiment in a socialism. It was simply a compulsion to help others sharing their very souls, their lives. The people were moved by their love for each other, not by some idealistic utopia.
But what got me thinking about this idea of soul-sharing was my reading through 1 Thessalonians. I have been trying (though not succeeding) to read this letter through in one sitting everyday for the last couple of weeks. I have missed a few days, but I have been able to do it for most of the days. Each time I read through the letter, I of course come to the same spot where Paul wrote, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves (souls), because you had become very dear to us,” (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV). I must admit that I like the Christian Standard Bible better: “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives (souls), because you had become dear to us.”
“Literally, they gave up their souls–” MacArthur wrote, “there real inner beings–for the sake of the Thessalonians. There was nothing superficial or partial about their sacrificial service,” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chicago: Moody Press, 2002; 47). Yet, reading through the text it wasn’t only their service that they were giving, though they certainly gave that. They gave of themselves. I appreciate Johnny Mac’s point when he wrote that “There was nothing superficial or partial about” it, though again not only their service, but their very soul-sharing experience in Thessalonika. Much of the American church experience is not that way; as a whole we tend to be much more superficial and partial with each other.
The American church has lost its soul-sharing ability. Much of it is due to the American way of independence and pulling one’s self up by the boot straps. It is also do to the pervasive gossiping that plagues the church. Many churches give lip-service to the sinfulness of gossiping while simultaneously having the “gossip-chain” (aka prayer-chain) going. Perhaps that is a bit unfair and hyperbolic, but I am sure the reference is understood. It is difficult to share one’s soul with a person who abuses it by sharing that which is not theirs to share. That may sound like Wham’s “Last Christmas” song, but it is still true (You’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head in the middle of May). It is sad, truly sad, that soul-sharing does not happen because one does not believe that those in the church are trustworthy. There should be no one else as trustworthy as a fellow-believer.
That being said. . .at some point, we as believers, will come to understand (hopefully sooner than later; before it is too late) that soul-sharing is a grace from God. Family, church family–those who understand the sacrifice and needs of Christ-followers–is detrimental to living the Christian life. Perhaps this week, you can find a way to share your soul with another member of your church. I know. I know. It’s easier said than done. But will you try?
What are your experiences with soul-sharing? Am I missing something? Let me know. I would love to hear from you, even if you disagree with me; so, leave a comment if you can.