Red Pill or Blue Pill?
In the movie, The Matrix, the main character is a young man named Neo. Powerful forces in control of the world have tricked him (and everyone else) into believing that the world he sees is all there is.
But Neo accidentally finds out that his whole life has been a dream—that his world is not real—and he’s offered a choice between a red pill and a blue one.
If he takes the blue one, he remains in an artificial life where he and billions of other people are in a dream world controlled by machines that convert their body heat to electricity. But that artificial life appears to be very pleasant. In fact, it can be anything that the person dreams of. The only problem is that none of it is real, because reality is horrifying, if only they knew it.
If Neo chooses the red pill, he will be violently expelled from the dream world and forced to live in the real world, which is very harsh and dangerous. The only good thing about reality is that it is the truth, as hard as it may be to live in it.
He must take one pill or the other, and there is no changing the decision after it’s made.
If you want to know which pill Neo chooses, you’ll have to watch the movie or ask me after church, but I imagine you can guess how it turns out.
Now, I know it’s tempting to think that a dream world, where everything is always just the way we want it to be, sounds like it might be a good idea. And I have to admit that it could be very tempting to long for that artificial, false world.
So, how do we choose? How do we decide which is better for us? Do we take the red pill or the blue pill?
Simon Peter and his brother Andrew made a hard choice when they met Jesus: “Come with me, and I will make you fish for people.” [Today’s Gospel lesson is Mark 1:14-20] And last week, we heard how Jesus called Philip and Nathaniel to be disciples. [John 1:43-52] They also had to make a choice to create a new framework for their lives. Their “blue pill” choice would have meant continuing to live as they were, in a world mired in sin and all its manifestations, with no hope of salvation.
Nothing would have changed for them, and most importantly, they themselves would not have been changed.
Well, you know what happened. All four of them, plus eight more as the days went by, chose the red pill—the reality pill, the one that wrenched them out of their comfortable world and thrust them into a world of dangers and threats—a world where Jesus challenged everything that allowed people to think and live opposite to the way God desired them to live.
A world where everything is turned upside-down, as Saint Paul told the Corinthians:
“those who have wives [will] be
as though they had none,
and those who mourn
as though they were not mourning,
and those who rejoice
as though they were not rejoicing,
and those who buy
as though they had no possessions,
and those who deal with the world
as though they had no dealings with it.” [Today’s Epistle Lesson is First Corinthians 7:29-31]
A total reversal, in other words, of everything that is comfortable, safe, and known to us.
So I can understand the appeal of living in a different world than the real one. Perhaps a dream world seems like a welcome escape. But that’s what it would be—an escape, a way to run and hide from the truth—the reality that we are lost in sin and need a savior.
So what are we to do?
We could step out in faith, as did Peter and Andrew, and James and John and Philip and Nathaniel—and Thomas and Simon and Jude and Bartholomew and Matthew and Matthias and Paul and Barnabas and Timothy… and the billions of others who have taken up their cross and followed Jesus.
Or we could choose to be like the Pharisees and Sadducees, and scribes and religious authorities, and of course Judas Iscariot—the one who gave up and went back for that blue pill after all.
There’s no denying it—Jesus is asking us to make a very difficult choice. So how can we find the strength to resist the temptation to go the easy blue pill way, the one that lets us live in a false reality?
Psalm 62, which we prayed this morning, offers us an answer to that question:
For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in God.
God alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor;
My God is my strong rock and my refuge. [Psalm 62:6-8]
It’s true—God is always there when we go to that quiet place that offers us solace and comfort and consolation—and yes, God is with us if we choose a real, red-pill world, where trials and tribulations are all around us.
So I tell you we can choose to live in that real world. We can choose to be disciples of Jesus, like those he called so long ago, and is still calling today. We can reject what is false and embrace what is true, no matter how challenging that may be.
And I can assure you of that because, truly, God is our rock and our refuge!
Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God,
that the words we have heard this day with our outward ears,
may, through thy grace, be grafted inwardly in our hearts,
so that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living,
to the honor and praise of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.