It has now been more than 10 years since I originally saw The Matrix. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the film. I walked into it having not even seen a trailer. I saw the movie at an old theatre in Norfolk, Virginia that had been converted into a restaurant. The venue, the picture and sound quality, and the food were all absolutely fantastic. I was there with my middle brother, his wife, and my soon-to-be wife (though we weren’t yet dating at the time). It was an event to remember. That day seems impossibly long ago at this point, but The Matrix has been one of my favorite movies ever since. There are many reasons that is the case, not the least of which are the incredible characters portrayed by Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving. But what I like the most is that The Matrix – in many ways – is an analogy of the Christian life.
I’ve not spent a single second reading opinion pieces about The Matrix, but my guess is that, even before the sequels were released, it was clear to most observers that Neo was a Messiah figure. And I assume that most comparisons between this movie and Christianity have to do with this. But I find a couple of other aspects about the movie to be much more compelling. And those are how the movie addresses faith and how the movies defines enemies. While I think each is equally interesting to talk about, it is the latter that I have spent more time pondering as of late.
While teaching Neo about the Matrix, Morpheus says the following: “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy.” More than most anything else in the movie, this quote sums up the reality of following Christ in this world. And that reality is that those we are called to love the most are often our enemies.
While any believer will freely admit that Christ sits on the throne, he or she also understands that Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31) and he comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). From the very beginning, the devil has been at work to discredit our Lord, to separate us from God’s love, and to wage his selfish war against the very Creator and those who love him. It should be clear that Satan is our enemy. But crafty as he is, Satan chooses not to fight against us directly. While there is without a doubt spiritual warfare that takes place unseen by human eye, Satan’s primary weapon is us. And that simple fact trips up so many who are attempting to follow Christ.
Satan, you see, is a deceiver. The Bible calls him “the father of lies” (John 8:44). And as such, he whispers disinformation into the minds of those in the world, peppered with the truth. And by doing so, he convinces others to do his bidding. And he does it in such a way as they don’t even realize what has happened. As believers, we are not unaware of Satan’s schemes. But though we are aware, the world is not. And love them though we may, those in the world act as our enemies. Worse still, even followers of Christ are not immune. Being aware of Satan’s tricks does not make us insusceptible to them. And those Christians who are honest will admit that, even as they attempt to follow Christ, they have gone through times when they have been blind to the fact that they were in opposition to God’s will. The truth is that, much like the agents in The Matrix, our enemy can use anyone to wage war against those who follow Christ. But – praise God – that is where the analogy ends.
In The Matrix, those who are being used by an agent are treated by those who have been freed as if they were the enemy. And to that end, they are destroyed. But Jesus teaches us to fight differently. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he says (Matthew 5:44). This is one of the most profound passages in all of Scripture, and it is one of the most important. For we are called not only to faith, but to love and forgiveness. And to love and forgive even those who love us is sometimes a challenge. How then can we possibly love our enemies? Over the past few months, the Lord has given me the answer. The key is to remember who our true enemy is.
When Christ came into the world, many men opposed him. While he certainly had a following, those in power challenged him at every turn. And yet Christ – while sometimes rebuking them – loved each and every one. Even to the point of allowing himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, giving up his own life for us. Jesus understood that his children were not his enemy. And being fully conscious of this, on the cross he dealt the death blow to his true enemy – and to ours. And in doing so, Jesus opened the gates of heaven to all who would put their trust in him.
So many in the church today judge those outside of God’s will. And while we are called to obedience and holiness within the church, we need to learn to look upon others with empathy. For we have all been deceived. We have all been in opposition to God’s will. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And we all likely will oppose God time and again at points in our lives, even as we endeavor to follow Christ. Remember that when you look at those who hurt you. Dwell upon that when someone speaks bad about you. And look with new eyes upon those who oppose you. For we are called to love our “enemies.” And the only way to be obedient to Christ in this command is to realize – like Jesus – that those around us are not our enemies after all."