Monday, March 17, 2014

The Matrix and the Fight Against Poverty

I caught the tail-end of the movie The Matrix: Revolutions the other night. I'll be honest and say that my understanding of the Matrix movies is somewhat elementary, with the plot of most Sci-Fi movies going over my head.

However, there was one part in particular that caught my attention. The hero Neo (Keanu Reeves) had just had a major crazy battle with his arch-nemesis Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and after getting up again for the umpteenth time, Agent Smith explodes with exasperation and offers this little spiel:

"Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?"

While Neo's battle was saving his city from a bunch of malevolent machines, many of us are engaged in a battle as well - the fight against poverty in our world. Agent Smith's biting words echo the exact thing the enemy sneers into the hearts and minds of those of us engaged in the battle. The thing is, they're all lies, but in the heat of the battle they can seem true.

The enemy of our souls spits on the very ideals that we desire, hold dear and even fight for, like freedom, truth, peace and love. Despite the fact that we are created in God's image and are of infinite value to Him, the enemy uses poverty to devalue humanity and convinces people that their lives are indeed without meaning or purpose. In this world our faith in almighty God, which is the only answer, is so often dismissed as an "illusion", a "temporary construct" and "artificial."

The enemy is the father of lies, but these very lies have robbed millions of their God-given destiny, when they haven't been able to see past their circumstances and have given in to the above words: "You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting." Other fatal arrows include "You're hopeless. You're worthless. Things will never change. You will never get better. No one cares. There's no one to help."

Many people look at the plight of the poor and the condition of our world and use it as an excuse to bash God. They say "Where's God? How can He allow this? Why doesn't He do something?" To be honest, I often struggle with those first two questions, but here's the answer to the third one: He has created YOU to do something. The majority of people in the developed world have been given much more than they need to survive, and it is our God-given job to care for those who don't have what they need.

WE have the answers to the lies of the enemy, and by sharing the love of God with people we can show them the truth:
- You CAN win.
- KEEP on fighting.
- With God there is HOPE.
- You have infinite WORTH as a child of God.
- Things CAN change.
- You CAN get better
- People DO care
- There ARE people to help. 

Interestingly, Neo's typically heroic and selfless response to Agent Smith's rant was "Because I choose to." All we need to gain the upper hand in the fight against poverty is for more people to follow Neo, ignore the enemy's bluster and bravado and say "I choose to help."

I choose to disregard a life of comfort, ease and living only for myself.
I choose to make my life about my needs, not my wants.
I choose to give generously and sacrificially, and trust God to provide for me and my family.
Then we would win the battle.

I have walked in the midst of poverty in twelve countries in my travels with Compassion, and I am now surrounded by it in the Philippines. I chose to immerse myself in the stories, homes and circumstances of my sponsored kids and it wrecked my heart in so many ways. Yet I was still like a spectator looking in from the outside. We will never fully understand the complexities and there are no easy answers.

However I believe with all my heart that Compassion International is one of God's answers to fighting against poverty. I have already blogged extensively about my experiences so I won't repeat myself here, but this I know for sure - there are poor communities in 26 countries around the world that have HOPE, because Compassion works there. Children are given a one-to-one relationship with a sponsor who loves them, they receive food, education, medical care, income-generating skills and most of all the hope and freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus.

Unfortunately Compassion is not a magical quick fix, an instant answer. It is a long-term strategy; it's grind and a struggle, all about building relationships with economically and spiritually poor people. It is about loving when you may not be loved in return. It is high-risk and high-reward.

In my experiences with Compassion I have witnessed Love, Joy, Faith, Hope, Sacrifice, Generosity, Hospitality, Safety, Music, Dancing, Playing, Kids Free To Be Kids.
All because somebody vanquished the enemy with a simple declaration: "Because I choose to."

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