Grace and Les Miserables…
I enjoy a good play and even more, I enjoy good music. I’ve seen some good plays and heard some great concerts, but nothing compares to Les Miserables. After seeing it in Chicago, I was nearly overwhelmed with the message and the passion in which it was delivered. It was by far, the most moving and dramatic musical I have ever seen.
A lot has been said about this powerful story written by Victor Hugo in 1815 and I’m sure many reviewers have written about the music, the story and the talent of the actors who have delivered this story on stages throughout the world.
I’d like to look at one recurring theme of the story; that is, Grace versus Law………
Jean Valjean, released from prison, steals again, this time from the home of a priest. He is arrested, but the priest does not press charges. In fact, he sees to it that Valjean is set free. He shows him grace. Unmerited favor. This act of kindness changes Jean Valjean forever and he spends the rest of his life showing grace to others. His new life was purchased by the kindly priest.
Jean Valjean showed grace to the dying Fantine by rescuing her orphaned daughter Cosette and raising her himself. Cosette’s new life was purchased by the kindly Jean Valjean.
Having once been punished by the unforgiving law, Valjean only wants to live a good life and be left alone. But his nemesis, the policeman Javert, continues to pursue him.
Javert does not understand the concept of grace. It is completely foreign to him. He lives onlyby the law. He knows that the ex convict, Jean Valjean has broken his parole and so he pursues him relentlessly. It doesn’t matter that Valjean has a new life, is raising a child and is a reformed person. He has broken the law. He must be punished.
Through a set of circumstances, set amidst the struggle of the French Revolution, Javert becomes the captive of Jean Valjean. He expects death at the hands of Valjean, but to his surprise, he is released unharmed.
Javert’s life is spared. Not because he deserves it, for he is a cruel man. But Jean Valjean will not deliver anything but grace to another human being, even to his tormentor, Jevert. Jevert’s life was purchased by Valjean, even though Valjean risked being recaptured. Having been the recipient of such grace, Javert still does not understand what grace is. He cannot live with the thought of owing his life to this ex convict, and so in despair, tragically, he takes his own life.
New life for Jean Valjean was the result of the grace shown by the priest.
New life for Cosette was the result of the grace shown by Jean Valjean.
And new life was available to Javert. But Javert was married to the law, and in the law, there is no forgiveness, only a penalty to pay.
The wonderful story of grace in Les Miserables is only a tiny example of God’s grace to us. New life is available to us through God’s abundant grace.
Grace is free. We cannot earn it. The grace shown to Jean Valjean was freely given. He accepted it and his life was changed. Our only response to God’s grace is to accept it and let it change our lives.
What does God’s grace look like? It looks like a gift. A gift by definition is something that we do not earn. It’s freely given to us. We only need to accept it. The Bible say’s that “The wages of sin is death, but the giftof God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” The law is necessary. It serves to show us how much we miss the mark. The law points to our sin. It put Jean Valjean in jail. And the law condemns us too.
True redemption, that is, forgiveness and new life, will never be found in the law, or by following laws. Only God’s perfect grace can change the heart of His hurting fallen people, and bring new life.
The story of Les Miserables displays just how powerful a little bit of grace can be. Even grace given from man to man can result in changed lives. But the story of God’s grace is the story of mankind’s redemption, forgiveness and eternal life, and it’s ours to accept. How great is our God!
On Line Resources…
- You Probably Love (or Hate) 'Heaven Is For Real' for All the Wrong Reasons
- End Missionary Debt!
- Guard Kills 3 Americans at Christian Hospital in Afghanistan
- If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli
- Rhythms of Grace by The Remission Flow
- You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music
Verses for the New Year
New Birth - A Living Hope - 1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (NIV)
Hope for the Future - Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT)
A New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV)
A New Heart - Ezekiel 36:25-27
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command. (NLT)
Forgetting the Past - Philippians 3:13-14
No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (NLT)
Learning from Past Mistakes - Hebrews 12:10-11
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)
Wait on the Lord - Psalm 37:7
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. (NLT)