Just got back from seeing Les Miserables at the cinema. Despite my love of musicals I had actually never seen or read it before in any of its forms. The thing I was most struck by, apart from someone dying every ten minutes, was the examples of grace given throughout the story.
At first, we have a slave who finishes his prison sentence (under a strict law) and is then allowed to return to the free world, but has no money or possessions. He is offered shelter by a priest and is fed and allowed to stay the night. Such is the man’s desperation regarding his situation that he wakes up early and leaves the church with a bag full of its silverware. The police catch him and bring him back to the priest to return the stolen goods, telling the priest that the thief told them he had been allowed by the priest to take the silverware. Much to the thief’s surprise, the priest goes along with this and actually gives the man more silverware to add to his bag. After the police have gone, the priest then tells the man to use the silverware to make an honest man of himself. We then see this throughout the film, as the man sacrifices and gives to others, often at great risk to himself.
This reminded me (as I suspect the author intended) of the grace that Jesus gives. None of us deserved it but were just like the thief. We (i.e. those who accept him) are given the gift of the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in the new creation despite not deserving this in any way. We are then told to live good lives, but it is important to remember that the gift comes first and living a good life is a response to that, not a way in which we earn our reward. All we have to do is accept this offer and the gift is ours.
Later in the story, the baddie of the film is shown the same grace by the former thief, who spares the baddie’s life even after the baddie was trying to kill him. However, the baddie reacts very differently and cannot bear to be living due to the mercy of the man he hated. He ends up choosing his own destruction by committing suicide.
In a way this is what people do who reject Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. They cannot bear to be living due to someone else’s mercy rather than their own strength, so they choose instead to go their own way, which sets them on the road to their destruction. The baddie had the chance to accept the grace given to him before it was too late, but he chose not to. I pray that others in this situation in the real world would reconsider the grace offered by Jesus and accept the free gift before it is too late for them.