Doctor Who: Run
One of the constants in the Doctor Who universe is that the Doctor is a madman with a box who has been running for thousands of years. Running is basically the Doctor's most frequently used word, and that concept is something that his companions are equally anchored into. It was the 9th Doctor's first word, and one of the 12th Doctor's last. The 11th Doctor introduces himself to the Atraxi by telling them to Run. Clara's initial mantra was reminding the Doctor to run. You really can't get away from it. People have often asked him why was always running or what was he running away from. It heavily focused on the concept that he was vaguely running from something, but I loved the notion that Bill Potts made to the 1st Doctor in Twice Upon A Time:
Bill: "You're the one who stole the Tardis and ran away. Why did you do it? I don't mean what you ran away from. What were you running to?"
The Doctor: "That's rather a good question."
Bill: "Questions are kind of my thing. How are you with answers?"
The Doctor in recent incarnations has not shied away from playing the fool or carrying on the false notion that he was just running from responsibility, rules, or for no good reason. However, the first Doctor took himself a bit more seriously and was a bit less whimsical. We get an answer from a version of the Doctor that hadn’t already had thousands of years' experience in believing his own hype or self-depreciation.
The Doctor replied; "There is good and there is evil. I left Gallifrey to answer a question of my own. By any analysis, evil should always win. Good is not a practical survival strategy. It requires loyalty, self-sacrifice, and love. And so, why does good prevail? What keeps the balance between good and evil in this appalling universe? Is there some kind of logic, some mysterious force?"
The Doctor wasn't running away from something. He was running towards answers. He saw there was evidence that, despite the evil in this appalling universe, good still existed.
While we aren't in a place where we can search the mysteries of the universe in a stolen time and space machine, we are in a place we can make the same observation. Paul, in fact, made a similar proclamation in the book of Romans when he writes, "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Much like the Doctor saw, it was clear that good was naturally thriving; all of mankind is able to look at the world around them and see that God is present from the shape and existence of creation down to the fact that evil hasn't completely decimated the world.
I think there is such a subtle difference between running from something and running towards something. I've loved Doctor Who for a long time now, demonstrated by the fact that I’ve named one of my children after a character from the series. Yet I have to say my love and respect for the character greatly grew with that one speech and that tiny distinction. I think one of the reasons it hit me so hard is that it mirrors the difference in why people actually come to God. The Doctor stealing a Tardis and running away because he is afraid, or running from conflict or responsibility doesn't make him a bad man. I also don't think that really lines up with who the Doctor is or the name he lives by. Coming to God is a great thing — the best thing, really — but much like becoming the Doctor, I don't think fear has a place in the equation.
One of the struggles I had growing up in the Church community I did was the inclination people often took to use fear as a motivator to bring people to God. It wasn't just a single person or an individual; it was a whole culture. Fire and brimstone messages, creepy comic tracks, judgement houses, and threats of hell delivered with tenacity were totally engrained into the culture of the church for generations. Don't get me wrong. I believe in sin, I believe in salvation, and I believe in Heaven and that Jesus is the way you get there. But when you use fear as a motivator, people aren't running to God. They are running from fear and punishment. That's basically the exact opposite of what coming to God looks like. While so much of what I saw in my youth was based in fear, everything we see coming from Jesus is based in love.
"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:15- 18).
Those verses are thick with love being the substance and motivation of our relationship with God. Seriously, look at it:
"We rely on the love God has for us.”
"Love is made complete among us so we will have confidence.” "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.”
That last one is so crucial. Look at what Jesus said when he was asked in the book of Matthew what the greatest commandment in all of scripture was. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38). The greatest and most important thing we are called to do in a relationship with God is to love Him, and as we saw in the scripture above, there is no fear in love. If we are going to have a healthy relationship with God, we can't be driven to Him out of fear and expect it to grow into the love that encompasses our heart, soul, and mind.
Let me go ahead and clarify this, because I know what you must be thinking. "Isn't the fear of God a good thing?" Scripture does speak of the importance and the value of the fear of God. It says in Proverbs 9:10, ”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." The fear of the Lord isn't that He is some horror to terrify people with. Instead, it’s the moment we realize how huge He is, how powerful He is, how beyond our understanding He is, and how sinful and unworthy we are. Yes, it is reverence, but it is also straight up fear. It is at that moment we realize we are broken sinners before a holy, all powerful God that we understand who we are and where we stand. Those verses say that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, of understanding, but not the basis of relationship. The basis of relationship is the fact that God loves us even when we are most broken. While fear may be a beginning of wisdom, love is the basis for relationship.
The Doctor started running to find the good that held back the evil. He wanted to know how good could prevail when evil was prevalent. Through his thousands of years and dozen+ lives, he still hasn't nailed that concept down yet, but in our world, I know the answer to that.
"And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to himself all
things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:17,19-20.
Colossians 1 is such a powerful chapter of the Bible because it shows us who Jesus was before the manger after the cross. He is the one who holds all things together (including the fragments of my day-to-day life), and He is the one who makes peace between myself and God. I know that's too simple and exclusive of an answer for the Doctor to run with, but the truth of the matter is that it is Jesus Christ that keeps us held together. It Jesus who has been fighting back the darkness for so long. When Bill was discussing this with The Doctor, she coyly implied that he was what held the darkness back. She said that the Doctor was what balanced good and evil, and while I love me some Doctor, I can't give him that much credit. If the Doctor were real though, he definitely would be part of the balance. He would definitely be pushing back the darkness. That's the great part about when you seek to find the source of goodness and justice. You end up becoming part of the solution as well.
The Doctor sought to find the reason evil didn’t always win and became part of the reason. In the real world, when we seek after God, we become part of the reason evil doesn't always win. When Jesus called out the disciples, He told them up front that he was going to make them part of the solution. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people." That's what happened. The disciples that followed after Jesus ended up becoming part of how He reaches and reconciles the world. He sent them out to prepare the way before He arrived in certain areas, and then after the crucifixion and resurrection, they would go on to be His hands and feet in the world for thousands of years. In the same way, if we seek after Jesus now, what we find will make us part of the solution.
It makes such a difference in why we run. Instead of running from fear, shame, hell, or our past, we run for faith, hope, love, and a future. We run towards God instead of running away from other things. That's the thing about The Doctor and running. He keeps going. Sure, there are pauses, breaks, 24 year long nights on Darillium, and the occasional 4.5 Billion years in a confession dial, but you keep going. You keep running.
So often when we run to God, whether for the right or wrong reasons, we only run long enough to get what we want, then we go right back to where we came from. Much like The Doctor, if we want to make a difference, we have to keep going. I understand we get tired. So did The Doctor. He asked in an episode, "Can't I ever have peace? Can't I rest?" The Doctor asked as he was still debating whether or not to regenerate. I'm telling you this: you will find so much better rest running after God than simply giving up or turning back. You want to find good in your life? You want to find joy? You want to find love? Then run to God. Not out of fear, but because He loves you and is waiting to give you all that you are running for. Run, you clever reader and remember:
”Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." Psalm 34:14.
"Basically, Run." - The Doctor