Creative genius Steve Jobs has died. If you're reading this right now, you likely already knew that.
My family made the switch to Apple computers about 5 years ago and we have no plans to switch back. I know Apple products are considered the talisman of the hipster, but we use them because they're easy to use. The PC-related headaches are gone. We don't have iPhones (and don't really need them in rural Vermont ;-), but we have iPods. In addition, I was impressed and heartened by Jobs's refusal to allow the download or use of p()rnography apps on Apple devices. (I hope those who've inherited the reigns of the company will maintain this policy.)
In any event, Jobs's unique blend of visionary leadership and ferocious creativity undoubtedly towers over not just the technological landscape but the cultural landscape of the 21st century.
There have been some excellent tributes within the evangelical blogosphere today. Greg Thornbury's elegy is excellent, as is Al Mohler's reflection. My personal favorite thus far, however, is this piece at The Resurgence by Mike Anderson titled "Dear Steve".
Anderson is clearly a fellow who hasn't just looked up the facts for a concise Jobs biography; he is a fellow who feels Jobs's legacy. So when he turns from appreciation to Christian reflection, you sense his authenticity.
In his article, Mohler writes "Christians cannot leave the matter where the secular world will settle on Steve Jobs’ legacy. The secular conversation will evade questions of eternal significance, but Christians cannot."
Yes, and amen.
In his article, Anderson takes it and makes it more personal -- indeed, the entire thing is written as if in a concerned letter to Jobs himself -- responding to some of Jobs's nicely wrought but poorly thought words on what death is, then writing, "Steve, I hope that your death will embolden many not to sit on their hands and wait to tell those whom they love and respect about the great and glorious gospel of Jesus."
This morning I tweeted "What does it profit a man to change the world but lose his own soul?" I was taken to task by two (so far) people for lacking compassion. But the opposite is true.
It is a hollow compassion to mourn the loss of a man's products and creativity and set aside the potential loss of his soul as not as important, even if what we just mean is that it's not as important at this time. Nobody I have seen is denying Jobs's incredible impact and artistry. But Jesus' words in Matthew 16:26 point us in the direction of greater grief, deeper grief.
A grief that mourns the loss of a man's worldly accomplishments but feels no anxiety for his eternal destiny is upside down. A man's worth lay not in his achievements or success but in his being made in the image of God. Setting aside for the moment the state of Jobs's eternal destiny -- because none of us can really know for sure -- let us just be real about what is at stake in this life. It's not fame and renown, it's not the fulfillment of our gifts and talents, it's not the altruistic good we can do our fellow man -- it is eternal life and eternal death. All else is treasure that rusts.
I have officiated more funerals in the last year than I can count. Most of those were for men who did not publicly profess faith in Christ Jesus. This is not theoretical for me, not theological grandstanding. I've sat with a Christian mother in the hospital while she waited to identify the body of her son who died hours before of a drug overdose, holding her hand as she welled up with anguish about the precariousness of his eternal destiny. I have spoken words of comfort while talking through God's plan of salvation with grieving families who thought their dearly departed were Christians but weren't sure. I have preached funeral homilies looking lost mourners straight in the eye to say their grief is wasted if it doesn't send them to Jesus in saving faith.
I have shared tears, and I have shared Christ, because my tears are wasted if I am not generous with the better gift. The stakes are too high to obscure them.
The Westboro heretics plan to picket Jobs's funeral. This is idiotic and hateful. If Phelps' band of religiously maladjusted yellers truly wanted to make a statement at Jobs's funeral to prove they treasure Christ, they'd be the loudest mourners there, torn up about a man's gaining the world but losing his soul. But their approach is as upside down, just in a different way, as mourning the loss of a man's earthly output out of proportion to the state of his soul.
Because God is true, so is eternity. And because eternity is true, we need a grief set rightside up, mourning the greater loss as greater.