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!