As we bumped and rattled over the rough farm road past the memorial boulder and plaque, with eyes watering and voice faltering the dignified old farmer said of his son: 'He gave it back'.
Gave what back? I asked, not having heard that expression before. 'His soul', said old Dad. 'Chose not to keep it and go the distance'. (And who did he give it back to? The One who gave it to him in the first place - GOD).
Jesus asks: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark chapter 8 verse 36). Possibly, there had been an appallingly bad outcome here.
The 'Giver-of-souls' clearly warns (and heavenly wisdom firmly advises) that s/he who, in desperation, 'gives it back' needed to have viewed as priceless and precious to themselves, their indestructible soul.
Our soul is incalculably more precious and valuable than even gaining (for enjoyment in this life only) the entire world including ALL its wealth.
That precious person who 'gives it back' may make a catastrophic trade, and probably leaves behind an unfillable hole, daily heartache that won't heal, questioning that can eventually turn to hate, self-blame and doubt.
I know of a teenager whose love for Mum slowly turned cold as, in her confusion she witnessed the devastation Mum's unexpected and inexplicable action caused to that close-knit family, especially to her Dad.
Oh! the crushing sadness of the untimely death of a loved-one.
Dying dangerously - perhaps
Carelessly or imprudently fatally overdosing at a party without knowing the contents of the pill offered, or a healthy young life forever lost and desperately missed through an unnecessary high speed car accident.
Why die dangerously: 'spiritually dangerously' if unprepared to meet thy Maker? Why 'give it back' at all, especially at a time when its possessor may not be prepared for that crucial meeting?
God lets us keep it but on His terms: then there is no need to ever give it back.
"No-one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit", says Jesus. (John chapter 3 verse 5).
The goal of faith
Later in Scripture, about His children God says through Peter: "You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1st Peter chapter 1 verse 9).
Jesus never doubted the existence of an indestructible soul that survives physical death including His own, thereby confirming the reality of the afterlife for He said shortly before His horrific death by crucifixion:
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew chapter 26 verse 38).
We don't have to give it back - If we will only let them, these wonderful words of Jesus can impart great comfort to us.
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew chapter 10 verse 28).
An old schoolmate 'gave it back'
Recently, an old schoolmate (husband/father/grandfather) now in his late 60's, committed suicide. Apparently he could no longer tolerate the pain of throat cancer.
The shocking news spread by email like wildfire.
Someone said: 'I know how he felt'. Someone else wrote: 'at least now he's at peace'. This latter comment sparked quite a debate. The majority opinion favoured being 'at peace' simply meant being 'out of pain'.
The follow-on question whether the state of being at peace was so because of numb extinction or being in heaven, was never canvassed. The question: whether everyone who dies R.I.P. including the Paris suicide bombers, was not answered.
If after death there is nothing that follows how can the departed be 'at peace', peace being something that must be experienced? Nothingness cannot experience peace...can it?
The outcome of the meeting between the old schoolmate who 'gave it back' and his Maker was rightly a matter solely between them, it being decided by God alone based on the deceased's earthly response to Jesus. This applies universally and has always been so, limited only by the degree of revelation received.
Every Christian knows beyond doubt (and God clearly teaches it in His Book) that death brings about the 'final appointment': being the one unbreakable appointment. This departed schoolmate brought that appointment forward, and most of the correspondents from school dismissed it as fairytale.
Does God anywhere say that suicide necessarily leads to hell? NO.
Whilst that act of 'self murder' is not His preferred 'meeting trigger', a Christian does not lose their salvation because they could no longer 'stand the pain'. In His tender Fatherly wisdom, God can deal with that.
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW and author of the book 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism." He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grand parents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html