“Death is the destination we all share. No one has escaped it. And that is as is should be, because death is very likely the very best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new” – Steve Jobs, 2005
How many of you have ever had a problem with an app on your smartphone or i-pad or similar? What’s one of the most often used ways of dealing with it? Yep, delete the app and reinstall it. It worked the other day for my hotmail app on my i-phone, and has worked several times. How often when your computer or electronic device seems to crash or freeze, or not be working, is the response to turn it off and on again? And it works. So often, in fact, more often than not.
It’s truly phenomenal.
I have no idea why it works that way – but it does seem to doesn’t it? Essentially you need to let the machine or phone app die, in order for it to live again and achieve it’s full function.
Which reveals a process fundamental to all life, and at the heart of the way of Jesus.
Death – followed by resurrection.
Seeds fall to the ground and die, giving birth to plants, flowers, trees – some of which bear fruit for us to live. Even vegetarians are eating something which has died, because fruit has to die in order for us to eat it. Meat, we all know, came from a living being, which had to die in order for us to enjoy the meat.
Even in drink, something has to die in order for us to have fruit juice, beer or wine. These are all things which provide us with life. Indeed, the thing that often makes the soil good for growing food is manure, which is dead waste from animals – and often the more recent it died, the more fertile it is.
It’s just everywhere
Which brings us neatly to the quote at the top by the late Steve Jobs (pictured), who passed away only this month. I think he had it spot on when it came to assessing this topic, even though he may not have realised it, and indeed as a muslim would probably not have encountered it as Christians would have.
What he spoke about was truth.
No doubt about it.
Death is the heartbeat of life. If we’re to ever fully live then we need to learn how to die. We need to be willing to die to anything, because ultimately none of those things compare with God. Jesus constantly talks about the kingdom of God being here and now, and that’s only going to be possible in our lives if we’re willing to learn to die and be raised up to a new life, a new way of living, a new attitude to ourselves, God and others.
A new way of seeing the world. A new way of living life.
We need to be willing to lay it all down, give up everything we have and are, for the sake of God. It’s exactly what Jesus did.
He gave up everything – and He started out with much more than we will ever have, indeed, it was almost literally everything – and became literally nothing. He gave up life itself, willingly. The truth is, we’ll probably never truly grasp just how much He did give up for us.
Therefore although we may not actually have to physically give everything up, we must be able to get to a place where we are prepared to give literally everything we have and know up for God.
Have our hands open. Hold on to things loosely.
How often do you find that it’s when people are confronted abruptly with their own mortality, usually against their will, that suddenly what’s important suddenly becomes clear. They gain a sense of perspective, they want to make the most of every moment because it might be their last.
They are more willing to let go of things because they realise how insignificant they are in comparison to the things that really matter.
Indeed, when Steve Jobs made the speech where the quote above comes from, he had just faced death for the first time himself, and made his initial recovery from the cancer which ultimately killed him.
How would it be to live that way all the time?
To have an awareness of the truth that we are going to die, that all the materiality, success, status, security and material wealth we can achieve will ultimately pass from us – and that none of it can protect us from death.
Not even God Himself will ultimately stop us physically dying – it’s a process we all will go through one day, and it’s one we need to go through in order to achieve the life God has for us. But the real truth is that this can begin now, whilst we are still alive in our current lives and bodies – and it happens physically when we physically die and when the new heaven and earth come together, in the new creation.
Paul himself said, ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’. It’s right there in scripture.
Paul had grasped that only way we can truly experience this life, this liberating, life-giving truth, is if we are willing to let go of all we are and have right now, and hold on to everything loosely.
Be willing to let everything we are or hold dear die, so that it can be resurrected.
You see, as a Christian, I shouldn’t fear death. Though, to be honest, I often do. I think we all do at times. It’s perfectly natural in many ways for obvious reasons.
But ideally, no Christian should really fear death.
Jesus came to model for us that death – of any kind – isn’t the end. It’s never the end. He came to show us that what we deem as failure isn’t final. It’s never final.
That through Him and His way of living there is something more.
For every end, there is a new beginning, a new opportunity, new life & new hope. That is what resurrection is.
He showed us the fundamental truth that God will bring something new, something fresh, and something vibrant, out of the old, which will be better than we can ever have imagined.
He wants us to life with an awareness of what’s truly important, have a healthier perspective, so that we only attach real value to things which are truly important, relevant and help us connect with God – and holding the other things in our life – which we may love, but which can eventually start to hold us back – more loosely, being willing to allow them to die.
To be willing to lose them, so that we can truly live.
Is this easy? No. That’s why Jesus called His way the narrow path.
However, the comfort we have is that Jesus doesn’t expect us to get it right all the time – His love for us isn’t conditional on us getting it right all the time, or what we achieve or how righteous we are.
It has no conditions. It just is. He just loves us.
As I say so often on this blog, that’s the journey. Our walk with God – both individually and corporately, as church – is a journey, a walk on a tightrope, and we all fall off at times.
It’s a process, of constantly being refined and remade, so that we become more like God originally planned us to be. It’s not trying to reach some fixed final point, some ‘magic’ ‘correct’ destination.
The journey, in a sense, is the destination – especially if you believe that the kingdom of God is, as Jesus said, in our hearts, right here, right now, and even more so when you take into account Steve Jobs words ‘death is the destination we all share’.
You see we can choose – as individuals and communities – to ignore death until it’s upon us, until we have no choice but to face up to it, in the midst of it, or to choose to embrace it now – and when we do so we can in the knowledge that after death is resurrection.
Once we take that principle, that attitude, and allow it to percolate into our lives, we can truly be alive and free in a way we may never have experienced before.
Maybe as a church, or even as individuals, we’ll find a new kind of religion at the end of this process – or maybe we’ll just lose it completely, certainly as we know it.
That’s the thing, in many ways the outcome is uncertain. It wouldn’t require any faith if we knew all the answers.
I certainly don’t have all of them. Neither do any of us.
Whatever the result of this process looks like for us, I think one thing is for sure. Somewhere in that process we will find a deeper intimacy with God, and we will be drawn closer to Jesus because we’ll have shared in the very experience He submitted Himself to.
As Steve Jobs said, death is the destination we all share – and that is true both when we physically die and, if we choose to, before it – and the sooner we embrace that, the sooner we become truly alive & free in the way we were created to be.
It’s the engine room of life, it’s where real life, creativity and freedom is brought into being. It’s a key mechanism by which new life is brought into the world, or something new is birthed, both in the physical creation, and often within us.
It’s what Steve Jobs embodied – and was borne out through the tremendous creativity and innovation that came from him, especially in the latter part of his life.
And remember, he wasn’t a Christian.
He didn’t even know Jesus, yet somehow – probably because of his own close brushes with death long before he eventually passed away – he understood this process, the mechanism at the heart of creation, and because of that he was able to experience life in a deeper, more liberating and creative way.
He was able to fully embrace the moment because he knew what was really important, and what mattered – and didn’t matter – in life, and ultimately therefore death held less, or even no fear for him.
It should hold no fear for us either. Even more so if we’re Christians, because at the heart of the Christian faith is the promise that death is never the end.
What an amazing feeling that would be, to geniunely have no fear of death – or dying to ourselves – but rather have embraced it, knowing that death is only the beginning of a process, a mechanism, that ultimately ends with resurrection, hope and a new beginning.
We can only experience that if we learn to trust the Jesus way – the way of death and resurrection. Trusting that whenever we die to anything, or anything comes to an end – and that includes our physical life on earth too – that there is always a new beginning, a new opportunity on the other side.
The only way to be truly alive, is to learn how to die.
That is the way of Jesus.
Do you fear death? Do you try to avoid the subject?
What do you think of Steve Job’s approach? Do you think it helped him to live with more freedom and less fear?
What would it look like for you to embrace the mechanism of death and resurrection in your everyday life?
How does this truth apply to the church – both our own church communities, and the church as a whole?
Do we even need to allow religion & maybe even the Christian ‘religion’ itself to die in order to be fully in tune with the way of Jesus?
All this and more in part two, later this week!