“What is real?”

“How do you define real?”

“If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

In the 1999 movie, The Matrix, most of humanity lives connected to and enslaved by a virtual world ruled by sentient machines that survive by harvesting energy from human beings. Neo, the main character, has recently been liberated from the Matrix and struggles to ground himself within reality. 

A big theme of The Matrix is truth. Discovering reality and living according to reality is better than living in a false world, even if the false world is paradise compared to a world destroyed by war.

But what is real, and how do you define “real?”

Today, answering this question is far more offensive than it was in 1999 when The Matrix was first released.

Five Reasons Why Truth is Offensive

  1. Truth is rigid. Rigidness conflicts with a culture that can order up what we want, when we want it, how we want it, and have it delivered where we want it all with a few clicks of a button. Truth has the power to tell you “No,” and that is a word our culture doesn’t like to hear.

“No, you can’t have it that way.”

“No, you must wait.”

“No, you cannot do that.”

  1. Truth makes lying possible. In a world where truth doesn’t exist, there would be no such thing as a lie. We all know that lying is wrong, but how would there be such a thing if truth did not exist. So, when we tell that lie to hide something internally, we know that we’re doing something morally wrong. We know that we are speaking in a way that misrepresents how things really are. How dare truth infringe upon the life I desire to create and live. That’s offensive! That is hateful.
  1. Truth can tell us we’re wrong. There is a way that things really are. Our beliefs may correspond to what truly is, or they may not. When there is a difference between our beliefs and how things are, the belief is false. For example, I can sincerely believe I own a Ferrari, but that is not how things really are. Therefore, it would be a false belief regardless of how much I believe I have or deserve one.
  1. Truth tells us that words have meaning. When I use a word, it points to its referent. For example, when I say “My wife,” the term refers to Amy. Not just any person with the name Amy, but my spouse, the person I gave my life to in marriage, that Amy and only that Amy. Thus, when we use words in communication, we refer to the real world. Else communication would be meaningless.
  1. Truth is independent of intentions. I didn’t intend to hurt that person, but I did. I intended to accomplish that task at work, but I didn’t. I intended to protect my family, but I didn’t. Truth corresponds to reality and, more specifically, the actual outcomes of our actions regardless of our intent. Truth can be a hard pill to swallow for a society that has bought into ideas that feelings are more accurate than facts, and everyone deserves to be a winner.

Escaping the Matrix, Finding Truth

 Unlike the Matrix, we can’t simply take the blue pill, go back to sleep, and ignore the truth. Truth is like oxygen, we can hold our breath attempting to ignore our dependence on it, but eventually, we’ll either gasp and give our bodies what it needs, or we’ll pass out, and our bodies will naturally replenish themselves of the oxygen it was being deprived.

 Truth is similar in that we can try to ignore the way things actually are. We can create a self-serving narrative or believe ideas that seem good, that seem comfortable, that seem unoffensive. However, if the idea isn’t true, it needs to be rejected; otherwise, reality has a way of correcting us. The bigger the false belief, the bigger the consequences. As Chuck Colson has famously said, “Ideas have consequences, bad ideas have victims.”

 Like Neo, we must passionately seek truth wherever it is found, and no matter how disturbing it might be when we find it. This concept is so fundamental to all that we hold dear that denying the principle is sacrificing everything for a delusion. If we don’t like how things are, it is impossible to progress something better without being anchored to reality.

 Unlike the Matrix, truth is inescapable. Truth is absolute for all people, at all times, and in all places.


  1. David W

    Excellent reminder, especially in today’s day and age of relativism, postmodernism, and Progressive Christianity.

  2. Lisa Young

    Excellent! Thank you!

  3. Ashley S.

    Great job Chuck!

  4. Linda

    Jesus says He is truth.