Eugene Cho

steve jobs: reflections about birth, death, and the life in between

By now, you’ve heard the shocking news of Steve Jobs’ passing at the age of 56. Like many, I extend grace and prayers to the entire Jobs family.

Like some of my friends and readers, I do not personally have an “emotional” connection with Steve Jobs because I am not a Mac user for these reasons (although I occasionally use an iPad that was given to me as a gift). I’m sure many of you could write and write about your appreciation and admiration for Steve Jobs. And perhaps, how he changed the way you live your life.

But like others, I have much respect for him.

Needless to say, Steve Jobs was a brilliant man. For reasons that many of us already know, Steve Job rightfully deserves much praise for his legacy and oh, what a legacy! President Barack Obama conveyed it well in his recent statement:

Brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world & talented enough to do it.

While I am not the most qualified person to speak about all of Steve Jobs’ accomplishments, these things I know:

  • He was brilliant and charismatic.
  • He was wealthy.
  • He created a global icon and was an icon himself.
  • He was the epitome of innovation.
  • And the list goes on an on.

And yet, he died. None of those things could have saved him from death.

And he knew he was going to die. All the money and all the advanced treatments could not turn back the devastation of his pancreatic cancer.

Steve Jobs wasn’t naive about death; he shared this wisdom so beautifully and poignantly in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

There are no certainties in life.

The myth of the straight line from A -> B has been debunked and if you don’t know that, you’ll soon know and be humbled like so many of us have been humbled.

But…there is actually ONE certainly or rather, TWO certainties in life that unifies all of humanity:

Life and Death.

These two things, we share.

If you are reading this now…congratulations…because you are alive but also know this: you will one day face death as Steve Jobs faced death…as I will one day face death.

It’s not a statement of morbidity but simple truth.

Steve Jobs shared:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life

So. very. true.

But let me add couple more thoughts:

I’d like to strongly encourage that for us, as followers of Christ, to be reminded again that death is NOT the final song. It is not a statement of arrogance or condescension but rather a declaration of the hope and grace of the Gospel.

Death is NOT the final word.

Rather, it is only the beginning of eternity of communion and fellowship with God our Creator. But be warned: Rather than seeking eternity, we live in the present – in the HERE and NOW – with beauty, hope, and courage.

Lastly, while I certainly resonate with Steve Jobs’ encouragement not to waste it “living someone else’s life” – may we indeed live our lives but may it also

reflect the life of one person that is worthy to emulated: Christ.

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8 Responses

  1. Marguerite Hwang says:

    Thank you for this pastor Eugene. well said. amen!

  2. […] appreciate what Eugene Cho writes: Death is NOT the final word. Rather, it is only the beginning of eternity of communion and […]

  3. Tim says:

    Thanks for this perspective.

  4. gadberry says:

    The thoughts here are poignant and
    Wise. Death is a reality and if looked at honestly gives good and specific perspective.

    It is a pleasure knowing that Christ has overcome death for us and our eternity is secure and real.

    Let us live expressing the love of Christ so that ultimate life can be discovered by others.

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One Day’s Wages

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As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory) May our hearts break for injustice and exploitation - whether abroad or in our own backyard. Spending a few days for @onedayswages in Thailand. Along with one of our board members, I'm traveling with a group of 10 others to learn, listen and visit a few NGOs including one of our partners, @thefreedomstory. Couple days ago, we spent an evening walking through Soi Cowboy. On a given night, about 10,000 people are in the ring of prostitution in Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong. Much of this is driven by the consumer demand. Approximately 70% of male tourists go to Thailand for the sex industry.

Human trafficking is complex. Anyone that says otherwise is lying or selling you something. 
To reduce it to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.

When people speak of human trafficking, they tend to be ‘attracted’ to the issue of sexual exploitation. Dare I say it, human trafficking has become trendy as a justice issue.

Clearly, it’s evil and egregious. But to reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful. Because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to not only combat sexual exploitation but engage in issues of poverty, forced labor, commercial exploitation in tourism, land rights and power abuses, organized crime networks, cultural and economic realities, etc.

Oh, it's so complex but we have to be engaged whether in Thailand or in our own backyards. May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God... More thoughts to come.

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