Yesterday many were saddened by the news that a brilliant innovator and businessman had succumbed to his battle with pancreatic cancer. Facebook statuses across the world read “RIP Steve Jobs” and news stories streamed in all afternoon, and well into the evening, with remembrances of the profound impact Mr. Jobs had on our culture and lifestyle.
Although not many of us knew Mr. Jobs personally, his death seems to have had as much an impact on us as his life. And I think this reaction reflects much more than just his influence on the technological advances of our day. As President Obama observed, “there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” Without a doubt, Mr. Jobs’ contributions to the technological and business worlds will influence our culture long into our future.
Truthfully, I was surprised by the level of grief being expressed as I perused the news stream on my Facebook feed and watched the stories spring up all over the internet. Many of my friends commented on Mr. Jobs passing. Many of the news and information pages I suscribe to commented about it. And most everyone expressed a deep and abiding sorrow over the news.
I imagine that the water cooler talk at many workplaces will be focused on this topic for days to come. People will likely make mention of it to their fellow travelers on the morning and evening commute. And coffee shops and internet cafes will be a little subdued today, as people speak in hushed tones of the loss to our nation and the world of such a talented person.
Indeed, the news of his passing was a stark reminder that death is indiscriminate. As I heard it put recently: “One out of every one person dies.” Or as Scripture puts it “…it is appointed for men (people) to die once…” (Hebrews 9:27)
I don’t think people are so much worried that Apple Inc. will suddenly fall off the map, depriving us of future technological advances, as I think they are confronted with their own mortality. And from what I’ve seen in the last almost 24 hours, Jobs’ death seems to have stirred up some of our most troubling emotions brought on by bereavement.
So I woke up this morning thinking…”What an opportunity the Church has today to share the gospel!” Perhaps it was the new Wednesday Night Life Series that began last night…the one focused on Evangelism…that prompted this musing. Or maybe it was merely the anxiety I sensed in people’s responses. But I really believe that the next few days could be an amazing opportunity for followers of Jesus Christ to be able to “give an account for the hope that is in” us. 1 Peter 3:15
The verse from Hebrews that I mentioned earlier in its entirety reads this way: “Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment.” I think that God has put it on all people’s hearts to be aware of sin, and righteousness and judgment. (see John 16:8 and Acts 2:17) And when events like the death of celebrity occur, it causes us all to consider our own mortality. What better time for the Holy Spirit to prompt our hearts to make a mental account of our lives?
Many realize, without even knowing the source (John 14:16-17,) that our lives do not measure up to God’s standards. And so fear sets in and the sorrow we express often reflects our own inadequacies in regard to God’s judgment. I suspect that more people think of standing before God with fear in their hearts, than inexpressible joy at the thought of finally being with their Savior.
As believers we have the unique opportunity over the next few days to help people cope with their fears. If we would but boldly enter into the water cooler talk with a thought toward heaven and the hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, think of the impact we can have on the kingdom, as we share our own peace and excitement for the day we get to be with our Lord and King forever!
Even if the thought of evangelism terrifies you, consider how you might respond today to someone whose thoughts on death and dying seem to overwhelm them as they remember Steve Jobs and his contributions to our society. What is one phrase you can use to comfort someone in their grief, not only today, but in the future as we encounter friends and loved ones experiencing loss? How will you participate in sharing the Good News that Jesus has already conquered the grave? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Take courage, Christian! The Holy Spirit will go with you. Take every opportunity in this time to share your faith, to extend the grace that has been given to you, to proclaim the gospel of our Lord! And may the Lord bless you in every effort!