Les Miserables Spiritual Message

Les Miserables

I made a quick post on my Facebook page the other day about the spiritual message of law and grace in the recent musical, Les Miserables. Someone wrote back thanking me for the spiritual insight. They said they would have missed it had I not mentioned it.

I’d hate for anyone to miss what I see is the bigger message of Les Miserables so let me offer a few thoughts here. I’d love to hear your insights as well.

Forgiveness in Les Miserables

The obvious message in Les Miserables is the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness melted the heart of a hardened man. It transformed his life, not only freeing him from his inner prison but he sought to forgive others: even Javert, the man who wanted to throw him back in prison.

A friend of mine wrote the other day saying that forgiveness is one of the biggest evidences of the reality of God for him.  It has no evolutionary reason behind it.  As in Les Miserables, common wisdom tells you to eliminate your enemy. But forgiveness sees the dignity of God’s creation and seeks to offer renewal, hope, and goodness even if it costs you your life.

The Futility of Law in Les Miserables

The subtler spiritual message in Les Miserables is the hopelessness of the Law to bring satisfaction and fulfillment. Javert represents the Law. He is driven to arrest Jean Val Jean no matter what the cost. He believes the Law is true and just and therefore must be fulfilled. It’s a holy calling from God. He has no concept of grace or forgiveness.

If you are familiar with the story that Jesus told of the Prodigal Son, Javert is like the older brother.  He doesn’t celebrate when his prodigal brother returns home. He stands in judgment and refuses to enter the party that his father throws for the prodigal.

Those who seek only the Law (right living) will, like Javert or the older brother, end their lives in despair.  But the grace of forgiveness offers a legacy of hope and life, generation after generation.

The New Testament letter to the Galatian church told them:   “Jesus set you free from the curse of the Law” (Galatians 3:13). In other words, the Law will only condemn us. But Jesus offers us another way to be approved by God…forgiveness. If you are a Bible reader, a full reading of Galatians chapter three might be worth your time to better understand the spiritual implications of Javert’s role as it relates to the Law.

These are just a couple of spiritual insights to consider as you watch Les Miserables. I’d love to hear back your thoughts as well.

To learn more about forgiveness you might want to consider, STUCK…how to overcome your anger and reclaim your life.

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4 thoughts on “Les Miserables Spiritual Message

  1. Lisa Kesler

    My hubby and 2 teens refused to go see this movie w/ me. Another friend of mine was lamenting that she would have to take herself to the movie b/c nobody wanted to see it with her either. My friend and I ended up seeing the movie together. I was glad I didn’t miss it. Love the good points you are bringing out. I was left with the impression at the end of the movie, that some still think they are saved by good deeds. It made me reflect on Cornelius in Acts 10-11. A very responsible right-living kinda guy.”He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” He even had a vision and spoke with an angel. And yet God saw to it that he and the family would hear the good news of Jesus through Peter and be baptized. Whether we are “good” or “bad”, we all need saving.

    The other thought I had was we can’t throw out right living. We will never earn salvation through right living. However, Jesus calls us to right living under his covenant. That’s what the scribes, pharisees and hypocrites were struggling with. They could tithe with the best of people but “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” Jesus would go on to say, ” These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23/ Luke 11:42) There are lots of passages on how we are to “conduct” ourselves in the household of God (1 Peter 1:13-21). I’m in agreement with you if your salvation is based on what Jesus has done and you are living under His forgiveness…you can breathe freely no longer a fugitive running from the wages of your sin. Trusting God, repentance, gratitude and a transformed life (i.e. extending grace, mercy, forgiveness, right living) are evidences of the Holy Spirit working in your life. On the other hand, depending on one’s own right living for salvation will cause one to despair. I did hate to see Javert go the same way as Judas Iscariot. If he had only put down the pride and cried out for help. Isn’t it amazing the different responses people have to forgiveness, mercy and grace?

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Thanks Lisa. Glad you made it to the movie. I’m realizing that not everyone likes music as much as I do. Glad you found a friend to go!

      Good comparison with Javert and Judas. Neither found freedom in grace. I didn’t see salvation by works in the movie. I only saw that Jean Valjean offered grace because he experienced grace, from God and the priest. I wish every believer was moved to love and self-sacrifice like the movie showed!

  2. Diedre

    You are absolutely on target with the importance of forgiveness as the theme of the story. It can be seen in many more of the relationships and on less obvious levels and degrees besides Val Jean and Javert. I particularly noted when Val Jean died how his children must forgive his leaving them and honor his choice of timing. It would be an interesting analysis to see all the opportunities for forgiveness that present themselves in the movie and then in our own lives as well. It’s a beautiful gift.

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