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.