How Is it with Your Soul?

March 21st, 2013
Image Courtesy Metropolitan Filmexport and Open Road Films

Following the enormous success of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult novel series-turned blockbuster film franchise, The Twilight Saga, Hollywood quickly tapped the writer’s 2008 novel The Host for a big-screen production. This time, instead of supernatural humans, The Host is a science-fiction story centered on the invasion of a body-snatching alien race. Implanting bodies with their parasitic “souls,” the aliens take control of human beings, erasing the original human inhabitants. However, when Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), a human freedom fighter, is captured and mortally wounded, she is implanted with Wanderer—a gentle “soul” who abhors violence and comes to experience conflicted emotions about her race and its occupation of the earth.

Unwilling to be erased, Melanie’s will to live allows her to co-exist with Wanderer and even influences the “soul” with human memories and other experiences, most notably love. Through a series of mutual heartaches, Melanie and Wanderer form a complicated partnership. Combining the best elements of their individual personalities, they push back against the alien occupation, taking the fight to one especially nasty “soul,” The Seeker (Diane Kruger).

Desires of the Soul

The Host takes a science-fiction approach to the “soul,” but Meyer’s novel also draws on Christian themes and ideas. For example, the partnership between the Wanderer and Melanie mirrors the complicated relationship between human desire and divine influence that we experience as the Holy Spirit moves and stirs within each of us. Much like Melanie with her “soul,” we waver between what we want and what the Spirit is leading us to do. We have to balance being in the world— with all its pleasures and offerings—with being of God and called to live in service to God and neighbor.

In the church we often talk about the soul. The word soul appears frequently in Scripture, in hymns, in names of Christians books and programs, and in sermons. We feed and tend to our souls; we sing from the soul; we thank Jesus for saving our souls. But what is the soul?

Traditionally people think of the soul as the part of us that lives on beyond death. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church offers this definition: “the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are most especially in God’s image.” Our souls are the very essence of who we are. The soul is the part of us that most reflects God’s love and mercy, and it is the part of us that “thirsts for God” (Psalm 42:2). Our soul partners with the Holy Spirit to make us the people God calls us to be.

A Soul Action

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, would begin gatherings by asking his fellow Christians, “How is it with your soul?” All of us can benefit from asking ourselves this question. Young people, who are coming to terms with who they are and what makes them unique, need to consider how their relationship with God factors into their identity. And they need to understand that, regardless of how they answer John Wesley’s question, their friends and peers will know their soul by their actions and behaviors. We should all strive to show people a soul that faithfully reflects its Creator.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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