Wir leben autos (cars are our life)


I have the impression that lately much of the advertising for new cars does not focus very much on their technical qualities, such as space, comfort, speed, extra’s, etc. More often we are told about the price and the fact that our trade-in will now catch a better price and that we will only need to pay 50 percent cash and then the rest (interest free) within three years. However, in many cases, the promised benefits remain rather vague. The suggestion often is that this special car adds another dimension to our life. It gives us joy, we become a more attractive person (for those of the other sex). In brief: we will enjoy life to a higher degree when we travel in this vehicle.

For many people their life story, indeed, is strongly interwoven with the cars they have owned during their life. I must admit that cars were never totally unimportant to me, and I have owned a quite a range of different makes and models. My first car was a Pontiac Tempest, which I bought during my study in the US in 1965. If I remember well, I paid about 275 dollar (but in 1965 the dollar had a somewhat higher value than it has today). Back in the Netherlands, I bought my first car in 1967 from a garage in Leeuwarden: a Renault Dauphine. I had to borrow 2,000 guilders (the full price of the car) from a local bank. After that there were various other Renault models, some Peugeots, a few Datsuns and Nissans and even a few Volkswagens and (believe it or not) a Lada (in Cameroon). The car I liked best was a Fiat Marea, with many extras such as automatic transmission and a sun roof. But that was in the UK, and when we moved back to the Netherlands, I had to sell it, since it had the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side. Since quite a few years I have now been driving Citroens. Occasionally there is the fleeting thought that maybe the time has come to look for another car, since my current Citroen C3 Picasso has now served me for 156.000 kilometers. But I have not yet come to the point that I eagerly visit car dealers and am thinking about some good arguments to convince my wife that the time has come to do some serious car-shopping. In brief: cars are important for me, but, fortunately, they do not determine the quality of my life.

The last few weeks the media have been dominated by the troubles of the FIFA and the controversial re-election of the 79-year old soccer-bobo, mr Blatter. It did not seem (at least not to me) prudent to re-elect this man, but the majority of those who were allowed to vote, rightly are wrongly, were of another opinion. It was amazing to see how tenaciously this man, even after having had the role of president for 16 years, wanted to hang on to his position.( Admittedly, now that I myself have  passed the 70-year threshold, I have a little more sympathy than I might have had in the past, for people of my age or older who still have some ambitions.) For many people, regrettably, their sense of well-being is so dependent on their job or status, that they are no longer able to relativize this, and fear their life will lose all meaning if they must give up their job and no longer enjoy their status. This is a phenomenon that we find in every organization—also in a denomination. Undoubtedly, we will see some examples of this next month, when the world wide Adventist Church will elect its new leaders for the next fives years.

For too many people (including christians) life largely coincides with their job or their possessions, or with other things they cannot easily give up. Yet, followers of Jesus Christ are expected to have another perspective on life. For the apostle Paul life for him was characterized as ‘living in Christ’. He wrote in Philippians 2 about the example that Christ gave us. Christ was prepared to give up his status for our sake. During the seminary classes in christology, which I attended in a distant past, the professor emphasized how Paul used a very specific Greek verb: harpazomai—it means: not hanging on to something whatever it takes. Christ was prepared not to desperately hang on to his heavenly privileges and status.  Following him means, at the very least, that we are also prepared to detach ourselves from material things and status. For most of us (and I do not exclude myself) this is not always easy. It is a project we might best refer to as ‘work in progress’.  But it should be something that characterizes our life as christians!