In the cult classic The Matrix one of the Zionists, Cypher, struck a deal to be reinserted into the Matrix in exchange for giving up Morpheus and Zion. While we would like to judge Cypher as a traitor and sell-out, there are times when we understand, if not covet, his decision to choose ignorance. We have heard it said that with knowledge comes responsibility. To live a life “unplugged from the machine” is a dangerous life of uncertainty. There are times when those responsibilities and uncertainties weigh so heavy upon our minds that the “unexamined life,” i.e. ignorant bliss, seems indeed worth living.
When we choose to leave the comforts of tradition and the simplicity of easy answers, we must unlearn what we have learned in order to grow. The question then becomes can you unlearn what you have now learned? Can you close your eyes and wake up in your bed in Kansas once you’ve seen Oz? Can you really be reinserted into the Matrix? Cypher realized the only way the Matrix could ever bring joy again was if he were to lose all memory of Zion. You see, the only way you can go back to the way things were is to lose all memory that things could be different, but we do not have the luxury of a delete key for our minds.
The book of Hebrews cautions us against turning our back on the unmerited grace of God expressed in the cross and settling once again for the vain traditions of men. “If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgement,” (Heb. 10:26-27 The Message). For me the point comes down to this: who opened your eyes? If we have been disillusioned by a fad, we must turn back in repentance, but if it is God who has revealed truth to us that transcends culture and tradition, we cannot, we must not, give up or give in to resistance, to loneliness, or to fear. “Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were hard times! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion. We’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way,” (Heb. 10:32, 36, 39).
I wonder what John did after he received a vision of Jesus while on the isle of Patmos. How do you go back to business as usual after seeing things indescribable for human eyes and words? Fortunately, we know what he did. He wrote it down and shared it with others who were tempted to give in and turn back under the weight of Roman persecution. His was a call to worship that began with a call to community. I don’t believe we have been called to fill Colesiums with spectators but rather to nurture pockets of community wherever we find them. I think we have a responsibility to worship Him, to call others to worship, to be faithful, and to listen. I don’t believe the Revelation is intended to prepare apocalyptic underground churches for end times. I think it is God’s instructions for Christ followers to live as spiritual subversives in Biblical community amid a world of empires.
In that context we understand why these are “hard times” for those who operate counter to the culture. We should spend less time trying to unplug the blissfully ignorant and spend ourselves trying to find those who are restless, alone, and wondering with eyes wide open. In finding them I believe we find ourselves again, and Zion will no longer seem such a lonely place.