A Lesson on Grace from Les Miserables

The grace offered to us by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is one of the most difficult aspects of Christianity to accept and live under. Often we are trained, or train ourselves, to think and believe we have to be better, work harder to earn God’s gifts and His grace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Teachings and preachings on grace are not few. Many churches and ministers across the world share on this topic every church service and give a great Biblical foundation and teaching to share the amazing gift of grace given to us by Jesus. But for some reason, and I am most guilty of this, we forget to live in His grace. We know His grace with our heads, but oftentimes we don’t know it in our hearts. Especially when we sin and mess up.

Receiving God’s grace is a daily event, however, the grace we receive daily was done only once when Jesus was crucified, cursed and nailed to the cross. While on the cross, He took on all of our sins, past, present and future. He was thinking of you on that cross! He thought of each one of us, His children, and decided our value was worthy of His life lost. With Him, sin and death died on the cross, and Jesus cemented it when He rose from the dead and fulfilled the Old Covenant. His grace is, and always will be, sufficient. He won’t love us any less than He loves us right now. And He won’t love us any more than He does right now because He loves us fully!

2 Corinthians 12:9- “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Romans 3:23- “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:8-9- “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves as it is a gift from God, not by works so that no one can boast.”

James 4:6- “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud by shows favor to the humble’.”

Titus 2:11- “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”

Romans 6:14- “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

I recently watched the musical/movie “Les Miserables” and there is an incredible story of grace in that movie. And from that, we see 2 characters respond completely differently to grace shown to them. Jean Valjean was imprisoned for 19 years because he stole food to get to his dying nephew. Rightfully so, he grew bitter and angry and his time in prison doing hard labor hardened his heart. When he finally got out, he sought refuge in a church. He was shown great kindness and was offered food and a bed. While in the church he found all the “treasures” of the church. Gold, silver and fine dishes and jewelry. In the middle of the night, he robbed the church and then was caught. Filled with shame, the officers brought him before the priest to convict him and have reason to send him back into prison. Jean Valjean lied about being given the items he had stolen. Imagine the shame he felt in that moment; being shown great kindness, which he took advantage of, and then lying about what the priest had told him. Instead of condemning him, the priest covered Jean Valjean. And not only that, he encouraged him to take even more riches than what he left with.

Put yourself in that situation. Filled with shame and guilt, knowing you’ve done wrong and hating yourself for doing such an evil thing. Then, someone steps in on your behalf and offers grace, and even more than what we tried to take. What an unwarranted and unmerited gift of grace this priest gave to Jean Valjean. He encouraged him to take what he needed and left him with a challenge: “take this treasure to make an honest man out of yourself.”

The other character from this musical I want to share on in Inspector Javert. He was a hardened man who sought to catch people breaking the over-reaching arm of the law in France during the revolution. He was feared, he was powerful and he strived to get vengeance and never forget any wrongdoings. He spent his career, his entire adult life catching the criminals and charging them in order to keep power over the French people of that time. He lived with a grudge and chose to always get his revenge, no matter the cost. Towards the end of the movie, Inspector Javert fell into the bondage of Jean Valjean and the young men fighting for freedom from government oppression, embodied by the work of Javert. He was captured, he should have been imprisoned, or even become a casualty of the war. But instead, Jean Valjean released him. He forgave him and spared his life. This was foreign to Javert because he had never shown grace or mercy to anyone, and believed he would never, and should never, get it in return. However, he was shown a mighty grace by Jean Valjean. Unwarranted and unmerited grace. He did not know how to handle the grace and freedom and mercy shown to him. It messed with him and created a war in his mind. Javert could not understand or comprehend the grace given to him by someone who had every right and opportunity to get revenge and justice. The battle in his mind and his soul was too much, and he ended up taking his own life.

What I learned and gathered from this story is that there are 2 ways we can respond to grace, and it is found in the actions of these characters in the musical Les Miserables. You can accept the free grace given to us and allow it to propel you forward into making an honest life, or you can refuse to accept it and strive to earn it and allow it to destroy you. All too often we Christians act more like Inspector Javert, trying to understand and comprehend the radical grace offered to us by Jesus. We want to be better, we don’t want to sin and break God’s heart. But in a fallen world and as humans, we are constantly at war against the “flesh” and it is difficult to understand grace given so freely without any conditions. We cannot earn God’s grace, we cannot work for His mercy, it is simply a gift given at the cost of Jesus’ life.

How are you going to respond to grace the next time you realize you are in even more need of it? There is a heavy responsibility upon us when we choose grace. How will you act? Are you going to cower and believe it is not something you deserve and then allow sin to ruin your life? Or are you going to take that grace and catapult yourself into a life lived freely in Him? The choice is simple, but it is not easy. It requires daily remembrance of what Jesus did for us and requires a death to our inner desires so we can align ourselves with Christ’s desires for our lives. Once again, the choice is simple; grace. But it is not an easy choice because it requires action on our end. We couldn’t earn it, and we don’t deserve. But still Jesus died for us to have it anyway.

Right now, you are in need of grace and the choice is yours on how you will respond. Use the grace to “make an honest man out of yourself” or allow it to consume you to the point of giving up. Just because you sin does not mean you are unworthy of His grace. Jesus set your value on the cross by choosing to die for you, specifically and individually. He died for all on the cross, but He thought of you while He was up there. Receive the gift and live by the amazing, wonderful and free gift of grace He has bestowed upon you.

John 10:10- “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

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