There was a time when people bought cars because they got them from A to B. Not so anymore. Today’s consumers buy cars that are ‘engineered to move the human spirit’ (Mercedes Benz), manufactured by companies that harness ‘the power of dreams’ (Honda), ‘grab life by the horns’ (Dodge), and ‘move your mind’ (Saab).
Modern advertising is rife with material products making spiritual promises. And while, deep down, we might suspect that Hyundai will not ‘always (be) there for you,’ that it’s impossible for anyone to deliver ‘the car that cares’ (Kia Motors) or that can ‘accelerate the future’ (Infiniti), we frequently fall under their vacuous spells. It’s not just car manufacturers who promise things that are practically impossible to deliver. If I buy my groceries at Sainsbury’s I might ‘Live well for less.’ A MacBook Air could help me find a new soul (1). Google could help me not be evil (2), and if I reach for a Coca Cola in the process, life will begin (3).
But even if we do smell a rat as we reach for a perfume that claims to be made of ‘blue sky and golden light’ (Chanel No. 5), what are we to make of a man who owned next to nothing, sells nothing, yet promises heaven itself? With no guarantees beyond his own word, Jesus stated that he and God were one (John 10:30), that anyone who came to him would never be hungry or thirsty (John 6:35), that anyone who believed in him would receive eternal life (John 3:15), and that even a repentant criminal, on dying, would find himself in Paradise (Luke 23:43). How do we know if Jesus was telling the truth and not peddling yet more false hope? How do we know if he is indeed the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)? Why should we put faith in him not Hummer?
Quite simply, we need to ‘taste and see’ (Psalm 34:8). Follow Jesus and see what happens. Talk with him, walk with him, and see what happens. He may not ‘open happiness’ but frankly, neither will Coca-Cola. What he will do, what God in Scripture promises to do, is give us all of himself, give us something to live for, and give us power to live wisely and well. Christianity is not bottled blue sky; it’s the reality of God made flesh, sharing real plans with real people and fulfilling them in us and through us. Like others, the claims of Christianity may at times seem incredulous. However, the truth of them needs to be walked out and lived out, as it is by millions of people around the world today.
(1) The song ‘New Soul’ by Yael Naïm was used by Apple in 2008 to promote the MacBook Air.
(2) ‘Don’t be evil’ is an informal slogan used by Google.
(3) Coca Cola used the slogan ‘Life Begins Here’ in its 2011 campaign.