Alright folks. If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, I’m probably going to spoil it for you. (Wait, don’t leave! I talk about things other than Doctor Who in this blog post too, I swear.)
Okay, so this last episode frustrated me. Here’s the basic conflict: This alien guy committed some pretty terrible crimes by experimenting on his own people and turning them into cyborg war machines to kill a bunch of other aliens. One of his cyborgs went rogue and turned into a justice/vengeance obsessed robot and hunted him across the universe to kill him. Surprise, surprise, the alien guy landed on earth, and now the justice-bot (that’s not what he’s called but that’s what I like to call him) has been waiting for weeks for the guy to come out and face him so he doesn’t have to kill any innocent humans to exact revenge. But now it’s taking too long, so he threatens to kill an entire town if they don’t deliver the bad guy over to him by high noon.
Here’s the conundrum: the bad guy’s done some pretty awesome things for this town since he arrived. He cured them of diseases, provided electricity, tried to protect them. The marshal stood up to the town and to the justice-bot for him and got himself killed. The Doctor doesn’t know what to do because he hates the bad guy for what he did, but he doesn’t want to pronounce the death penalty. The bad guy is willing to face the justice-bot, because he knows what he did and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone else, but even when he tries, his marshal friend takes the gunshot for him. Now the Doctor doesn’t want the innocent marshal’s death to be in vain.
As I watched this episode, I was trying (as the writer I am) to figure out a solution. What do you do when death is the only answer to exacting justice? I found myself actually getting a little excited about just how they were going to end this one.
…And then the bad alien guy goes and blows himself up. Because it was “the only way.” Because even though the Doctor had worked out a way for him to escape, he knew the justice-bot would just follow him to another planet, to another town, and they’d face the same conundrum again. So he decided to face his sins and take the punishment upon himself without having to make the cyborg murder another person.
Maybe that makes perfect sense to you, but it just depressed me. I thought they were going to do something different. I thought they were going to bring in some crazy, awesome solution. But there was no other solution. Death was the only way, even though the bad guy had repented, even though he had changed.
And this is the story we repeat to ourselves over and over.
In my seminar class on the problem of evil, we talk at great lengths about how, for some reason, human beings are born with this sense of fault, of imperfection which leads to sin which leads to guilt, and we don’t know where it comes from except for the fact that it has to do with being mortal… It’s all very depressing, and I don’t like being in it because we never get to the good parts about grace or redemption or original glory (and some would say we just created those good parts anyway). However, the textbook has spoken about this innate desire we have to punish the wrongdoing within us, even if it’s in the fact that we have someone else (like a lamb or Christ) suffer for us, we know that there needs to be justice. We are born with this need for justice.
And we write Doctor Who episodes about criminals who need to die for their sins, and our favorite character can search high and low for a way out, but in the end death is the only way for justice to be satisfied.
And yet there is something in me that resists that so fervently.
Can I just take a moment to praise God for His infinite grace?
Because justice is scary, and permanent, and unrelenting.
But God’s grace abounds.
He is the One who can be perfectly just and yet full of grace at the same time.
We know we need him. Our hearts must know, at least, because it comes out in our lives when we speak of things like our human imperfection, of our need for justice and restoration.
I need Him, and I just want to share that He’s here, that He loves you, and that He wants to cover you with His freedom and grace.
May you experience the power of His limitless grace today. <3