Experiencing God’s forgiveness can change your life. It’s never been exemplified better than in the musical, Les Miserables. The story is about an ex-convict by the name of Jean Valjean. He’s just gotten out of prison and he has nowhere to go so he goes to the home of the local bishop.
The bishop welcomes Jean Valjean into his home for the evening. Jean Valjean steals his silverware and knocks him down.
The next day the police catch him and return him to the bishop. But the bishop forgives him. This moment shows the connection between forgiveness and living a changed life.
Defined by guilt and regret.
Jean Valjean was like many of us. He was defined by his past; filled with guilt and regret. He even had a letter that documented his crime and branded him as a criminal for life. He would never again be known for who he was or who he might be. He’d always be known for what he did in the past and that can be dehumanizing.
And you can see how it affected his life. He didn’t blink at stealing from a priest. In his mind, he was a documented loser. Why try any more?
Life change begins with forgiveness.
But the bishop was determined to help Jean Valjean see his potential. To do that, it required that Jean Valjean experience forgiveness first. The bishop doesn’t just forgive him, he blesses him by offering him the silver candlesticks. And then he says…Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to evil. With this silver I bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now I give you back to God.
What was he saying? He was saying… My forgiveness has set you free from your past so you can live the life that God meant for you to live.
And that’s exactly what Jean Valjean did. He changed his identity, moved to a new town and became a successful businessman as well as the mayor of the town. But more importantly, he was a blessing to those around him. He adopted a troubled girl. He rescued people from death. He fought injustice. And he forgave his enemy. He lived the new life that the priest called him to live. That’s the power of forgiveness.
For Jean Valjean, forgiveness was a call to action.
For Jean Valjean, forgiveness wasn’t a gift that he passively remembered with half-hearted appreciation. Forgiveness wasn’t something to be acknowledged with a tip of the hat or an occasional dollar in the offering plate. Forgiveness was a call to action. It was a call to live a new life.
This story isn’t just for the stage. It’s for you and me to live out every day. If Jean Valjean turned his life around over two candlesticks…how much more ought we to change for the price that was paid for our forgiveness?
The Bible tells us that…
It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were ransomed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18,19
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